Australians are one of the largest user groups of international surrogacy globally. It’s a surprising statistic but is driven by poor access to adoption, women leaving family planning until later in life and relatively high incomes compared to other countries.
I’m a dad to girls Zoe and Ruby, born via surrogacy in India over six years ago when India was still open to Australians pursuing their dream of children.
Our Own Journey
I never imagined my own desire to be a parent would turn into a significant part of my life’s work. But so goes the journey, one couple’s struggle becomes the pathway for those who follow.
My partner and I struck a range of unforeseen obstacles, crises and tragedy in our path to parenthood. For seven weeks our son Ben fought for his life in a New Delhi intensive Care Unit before he lost his struggle. We felt incredibly alone, but then hundreds of intended parents around the world started visiting the blog we started, and it soon becomes clear that there were thousands of singles and couples who were turning to surrogacy and immersed in tough journeys whether at home or abroad without much support or reliable information.
International Surrogacy Conferences Around the Globe
This realization led me to found the community group Surrogacy Australia which quickly expanded from a website to hosting multiple social media forums and then best practice conferences run by volunteer parents who were interested in helping others. The idea was a forum where parents could support & learn from each other, ask the tough questions, avoid dud providers and understand which were reliable, in whichever country suited their budget.
International surrogacy is a confusing, complex area, and if you don’t understand the processes and logistics well, you are likely to come away burnt and disappointed.
We expanded (through Families Through Surrogacy) from running an annual Australian conference to running conferences and seminars in the US, UK, Ireland and most recently Scandinavia.
Our conferences and closed facebook communities have become a safe haven where intended parents can learn, support and gain confidence to make the right decisions on what can be a complicated journey.
Recent Changes in International Surrogacy
There have been huge changes in international surrogacy availability in recent years. Once Australians had little option but US surrogacy, but in recent years Australians have engaged in Thailand, India, Nepal and Cambodia. These south-east Asian countries have now closed their doors to foreign surrogacy, pushing renewed interest in the US and a surge in couples travelling to Ukraine – one of the few countries globally offering legally-sanctioned surrogacy for foreigners (and most importantly surrogate recruitment and screening) at affordable levels.
The key, however, is selecting reliable providers. At least one Ukraine surrogacy agency has been known to be great marketers- but once large deposits were paid, service delivery often fell over. Horror stories have emerged of surrogates not being compensated, filthy accommodation, poor communication, more embryos being transferred than intended parents had wanted and poor surrogate screening. Intended parents were often too scared to complain, terrified their provider would sabotage their precious embryos or the IVF process.
However, there are a number of very good Ukraine surrogacy providers who are painstaking about their selection and care of surrogates as well as client needs. It’s all about getting the right information.
Surrogacy providers are also emerging in new countries such as Kenya – copying the south-east Asia model of offering international surrogacy in the absence of protective laws.
Australian Surrogacy Seminars
Drawing on consumer feedback, experienced lawyers, psychologists, agencies, and reproductive medicine experts is key to a smooth journey. For example, talking to parents who have had successful international surrogacy journeys with specific providers is a great way to gain peace-of-mind. Yet there are traps here too, with some dodgy agencies paying parents large sums to post positive video reviews online of their experience, even when their actual experience was mediocre to poor.
Dozens of Australian parents and surrogates share their extraordinary journeys at Families Through Surrogacy’s regular seminar series across Australian capital cities every four months, paying back the help they received.
These seminars and conferences mainly focus on surrogacy in Australia (which has increased significantly in recent years), Canada, the US and Ukraine. They aim to assist those considering international surrogacy with crucial decisions around countries, agencies, IVF decisions and surrogate-parent relationships. You can view details and book at http://www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com
If you can’t get to a seminar or want customized advice in this complex area, Families Through Surrogacy offers an affordable consultation service. Details at http://www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com/customised-support/
Families Thru Surrogacy
Sam founded Surrogacy Australia in late 2010 to provide a forum for hundreds of families accessing surrogacy every year. He is considered a global expert and key opinion leader in regard to surrogacy arrangements and his views are sought by academics, media and intended parents. He has visited and worked with surrogacy providers in Australia, the US, India, Ukraine, Greece and Cambodia. The author of three books, he also runs a consultancy referring infertile and same-sex couples and singles to healthcare providers around the globe.