What Does Using A Surrogate In Australia Involve?
Kim Kardashian-West has made headlines with her use of a surrogate but what exactly does it involved for someone who isn't a Kardashian?
As the law in Australia currently stands surrogacy is a purely altruistic act and those involved in the process are not permitted to sustain any monetary benefit.
Nicholas Stewart, who is a partner at Dowson Turco Lawyers, told 10 daily there needs to be an agreement that the surrogate will not receive "any commercial benefit".
"In Australia, the only reasonable compensation for surrogates are any medical expenses or general costs associated with the pregnancy," he said.
The Medical Stuff
There's quite a lot of medical stuff involved in as well, according to obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Gino Pecorano, who told 10 daily there are a number of different options would-be parents can choose from.
"You can have any combination," he said. "A surrogate can carry a baby which is made by using the surrogates egg and the man’s sperm, or a surrogate can carry a baby using the prospective mother's egg and her partner's sperm."
Doctor Pecorano went on to say that "donor eggs are much harder to come by" but are now commonly used by male same-sex couples hoping to have children.
The entire process of implanting the donor egg and/or sperm can even be done while the surrogate is awake, according to Dr Pecorano.
"Normally we would fertilise the egg and the sperm in a test tube and then do an embryo transfer into the surrogate's womb through her vagina," he said.
Then the wait begins. "All parties then have to wait to see if the egg attaches as miscarriages can still occur,' Dr Pecorano explained. "The surrogate is also given hormonal support to make her uterus receptive."
There are increased risks associated with being a surrogate.
"If it's a donor egg and donor sperm, then none of the genetic material has come from the surrogate," he explained. "That alone increases her risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia".
Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure. If untreated it can have serious consequences for both the mother and the baby.
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According to the current laws in Australia, each party is required to undergo an intense psychological assessment to make sure they're aware of what they're getting into.
Sam Everingham, who is the head of Surrogacy Australia, told 10 daily the sessions are not used to screen people out, but rather just to get an idea of the personalities of the parties involved.
"The parents and the surrogate all have to go through counselling," he said. "As to how much they have to go through depends on each state."
According to Surrogacy NSW, those involved in the agreement are required to attend independent counselling sessions before the birth of the child. After the child has been born, only the birth mother will need to attend what's called 'relinquishment counselling'.
Doctor Pecorano said it's a vital part of the process as it's an incredibly emotional thing for all the parties to go through, especially the surrogate.
"It's a very big thing for a woman to carry a baby while understanding that the baby is not hers. It really takes a special kind of woman to do that," he said.
Doctor Pecorano said he's only worked on two surrogate pregnancies, with the same woman. "Her attitude was phenomenal," he said. "When the baby was born she only wanted to see it, but didn't hold it because it 'wasn't her baby'."
The Legal Stuff
There's a lot of it, according to Nicholas Stewart, a partner at Dowson Turco Lawyers.
"Everyone involved needs to have independent legal advice," he said. Meaning the surrogate must have different legal representation to the parents she will be carrying for.
"There then needs to be an agreement as to what the general agreement between the parties is," he said.
"The surrogacy agreement must also contain confirmation that the surrogate is engaging in an altruistic act and will transfer parentage."
But it doesn't end there. Stewart said the next part involves the legal teams preparing a comprehensive system of court forms, contracts and affidavits before filling them in court.
"It can be an expensive process but all these steps are necessary to ensure the parties agree on the terms of the arrangement before and after the child is born," he said.
For more information on surrogacy in Australia visit www.surrogacyaustralia.org
Feature Image: Getty