The Cost of Surrogacy in the UK

Surrogacy in the UK is an important treatment option for the 3.5 million British couples who struggle with infertility. But despite the promise surrogacy offers, UK surrogacy costs can be high, the process can be complicated, and the laws are often outdated and inadequate.

by William Houghton & Harjit Sarang ,
Surrogacy in the UK

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Hundreds of families are started every year via surrogacy in the UK, and hundreds more are started by UK couples using surrogacy services overseas. Here are some basic answers for childless couples considering their own journey.

How Much Does Surrogacy in the UK Cost?

Surrogacy-Costs-CardThe total cost of surrogacy in the UK can surpass £50,000 (about $65,000 USD) depending on the clinic and your surrogate. Total UK surrogacy costs will include not just the payment to the surrogate, but also the clinical payments of IVF and embryo transfers, consulting fees, and legal fees. Below is a breakdown of the costs associated with surrogacy in the UK. General information about surrogacy costs can be found in SENSIBLE’s Surrogacy Cost Guide.

Surrogate compensation:

UK law prohibits any payment to your surrogate during or after a surrogacy agreement. However, surrogates must not be left out of pocket, and it is perfectly legal that IPs pay for all reasonable expenses incurred by the surrogate. Recent court cases have approved “expense payments” up to £25,000 GBP ($32,000 USD).

Surrogate Expenses:

Would-be parents should consider all possible expenses that could be claimed by the surrogate as related to her pregnancy. That includes the surrogate’s travel costs (to visit you as well as to/from the fertility clinic or hospital). Loss of earnings may need to be paid if she works. Expenses for maternity clothing and childcare are also common. Physical or psychological therapy may also be included as a valid expense if they are related to the pregnancy. Reimbursement for holidays, insurance, food supplements, dental treatment and gym membership have also been requested by UK surrogates. If it’s related to the pregnancy, it will usually fall to be a reasonable expense.

Clinic and Legal fees:

The fees to clinics vary from clinic to clinic and geographical location. London surrogacy clinics are more expensive, with fees around £25,000 GBP ($32,000 USD). That would include egg and sperm donation, fertilization and the embryo transfer. Prenatal care may be extra, as well as the delivery of the baby. Some clinical fees may be covered by National Health Service — but the bulk of surrogacy expenses are not covered.

Legal fees vary greatly from lawyer to lawyer. Some lawyers charge as much as £50,000 ($64,000 USD), although most reasonable legal fees would total below £12,000 GBP ($15,000 USD).

Surrogacy is more affordable in overseas countries, where local governments have invested heavily in medical facilities to attract tourism. Compare Canada with the cost of surrogacy in Mexico or in Colombia.

Altruistic surrogacy in the UK is legal and regulated by The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (HFEA) and the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985, which cover the rights of parents and surrogate, as well as outlining the process for establishing permanent parental rights. For example, it is illegal to pay a surrogate more than reasonable expenses for the surrogacy arrangement. It’s a criminal offense to advertise that you are looking for a surrogate or willing to act as a surrogate. The restrictions make surrogacy in the UK legal, but also quite difficult to manage.

UK laws may seem outdated given the medical advances, especially in comparison to similar laws in more “surrogacy friendly” countries. For example, UK laws do not support commercial surrogacy contracts. As a result, the surrogate is the legal mother when the baby is born, and she is under no obligation to give you the child. A parental Order can be made changing that status but only with her cooperation. Without her cooperation, she remains legal parent and you have no legal or parental rights over the child unless she is single therefore in most cases the male IP is legal father. However, legal mother status is never changed without a Parental Order.

There is an increasing frequency of UK couples pursuing international surrogacy, where their child is conceived and delivered outside the UK. In some countries with supportive surrogacy laws couples can have their own names declared on the child’s birth certificate as the official parents when the child is born. Other countries will place the surrogate’s name on the birth certificate. Either way, UK parents will need to apply for a Parental Order as soon as the child is born.

What are the obstacles to surrogacy in the UK?

The biggest obstacle to UK couples seeking surrogacy procedures is the scarcity of surrogates. Because British surrogates are minimally paid for their long and exhausting efforts, there are few surrogates available in the UK. The wait for a qualified surrogate can take years.

Cost of surrogacy in the UK is also a factor, as National Health Service does not cover surrogacy procedures. Although surrogates are not paid, they are entitled to “reasonable expenses” such as lost wages, clothing, and housekeeping services. That can be a substantial expense.

Many couples are also put-off by UK surrogacy laws, which grants full parental rights to the surrogate and will support her claim on the baby should she change her mind. The surrogate may keep the baby until the Intended Parents can get a court order saying otherwise, which could be quite difficult as she is the legal mother (genetically connected or not).

Passports and Travel Documents for UK Surrogacy families

For couples who pursue surrogacy overseas, they will need to apply for citizenship (if the surrogate is married) and travel documents for the baby before returning to the UK. The process of applying for entry into the UK (or a British passport) involves the Home Office/Her Majesty’s Passport Office, and it often requires several months for review, during which the baby will not be able to travel internationally or enter the UK.

Surrogacy in the UK PassportIn some case the parents must apply for a special entry clearance to bring their child home to the UK. In cases of surrogacy in the US or in Cambodia, the baby is eligible for local citizenship and passport and can travel back to the UK on a simple family or tourist visa. The visa application process may require several weeks (as opposed to a few months for a UK passport).

The passport or visa application is completely separate from petitioning for permanent status as parents, which involves the family courts. Once the child returns to the UK, the parents typically begin the process of establishing full parental rights. In the UK, parental rights in surrogacy cases are established through a “Parental Order.”

Establishing Parentage in cases of Surrogacy in the UK

Under UK law any woman who gives birth to a child is regarded as the legal mother regardless of how the child was conceived. The birth mother’s husband, if she has one, is usually regarded as the legal father. If the surrogate is unmarried however then the genetic father can be named on the birth certificate. There is no law that requires a surrogate to be unmarried, but the default legal status of her husband makes having a single surrogate quite desirable.

The English process to establish the intended parents as the sole parents of the child is a “Parental Order”. A parental order establishes the parental rights fully and permanently, and results in the child’s birth certificate to be issued with the intended parents as the sole parents. It also removes the surrogate’s legal status and responsibilities under English law.

Parental orders are similar to an adoption order, but specific only to surrogacy in the UK. Like an adoption order, a parental order reassigns parenthood from the birth mother to the Intended Parents. The Order confers full parental status and parental responsibility on both Intended Parents.

How to apply for a Parental Order

UK Intended parents should apply for a Parental Order within 6 months of the baby’s birth. Once a parental order is made, a British birth certificate is issued naming the intended parents and replacing the child’s original birth certificate. A licensed UK lawyer can often be a big help managing the process.

For a Parental Order to be granted the following are all required:

  • Both Intended Parents must be over eighteen
  • The conception of the baby must have taken place artificially
  • At least one IP must be biologically related to the child
  • At least one IP must be “domeciled” in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man
  • The child must have his/her home with the Intended Parents
  • The surrogate and her husband must fully and freely consent to the order.

Single people, unmarried and same sex couples have been able to apply for a parental order if there is a biological connection with the baby.

The Parental Order process requires that the surrogacy arrangement be “altruistic”, meaning that no part of the process can be performed for profit or commercial purposes. Lawyers and agents are prohibited from making any money from advising or assisting in any commercial arrangement for surrogacy in the UK, which often leaves intend parents to manage the bulk of their surrogacy program themselves. Only “reasonable expenses” are allowed to be paid to the surrogate.

The term “reasonable expenses” is not clearly defined and often can include amounts up to £25,000 GBP ($32,000 USD). Although courts have been lenient as to what they consider “reasonable”, they will sometime insist on exacting accounting of what was spent during the process and for what specific services.

DISCLAIMER: Although reviewed by a surrogacy lawyer, information in this post is not intended to replace the specific advice and consult of a legal expert about the details of your case. Our intent is to provide a basic understanding of the issues surrounding surrogacy in the UK. It is not a replacement for expert opinion from a qualified legal professional.


Frequent Questions for Surrogacy in the United Kingdom

What is the cost of surrogacy in the UK?

The total cost of surrogacy in the UK can surpass £50,000 (about $65,000 USD) depending on the clinic and your surrogate. That price is much lower than surrogacy in the USA, but somewhat higher than programs in 'surrogacy-friendly' destinations like Mexico or Colombia.

How much are surrogates paid in the UK?

UK law prohibits any payment to your surrogate during or after a surrogacy agreement. However Surrogates must not be left out of pocket, and it is perfectly legal that IPs pay for all reasonable expenses incurred by the surrogate. Recent court cases have approved “expense payments” up to £25,000 GBP ($32,000 USD).

Is surrogacy in the UK legal?

Surrogacy is legal in the UK, although UK laws may seem outdated in comparison to similar laws in more “surrogacy friendly” countries. For example, under British law the surrogate is regarded as the legal mother regardless of any contract with the Intended Parents. A Parental Order is then issued to establish permanent parental rights.

How can Sensible Surrogacy help?

Sensible offers complete surrogacy services to manage your surrogacy journey, or to help you manage your own. We provide agency-type services in the U.S. but for lower costs. Our focus on transparency, security and low-cost is changing the way that childless couples complete their families!


About the authors

  • Bill-Houghton
  • Author: William Houghton

    Bill Houghton is the founder of Sensible Surrogacy, author of the Sensible Surrogacy Guide, 2x surrogacy dad, and a dedicated advocate for secure, legal and ethical Gestational Surrogacy. Read Bill's Biography
  • Harjit Sarang MD
  • Reviewer: Harjit Sarang

    Harjit Sarang is a UK lawyer specializing in LGBT parenting, fertility, surrogacy in the UK and international surrogacy. Her practice, Surrogacy Lawyers, is 100% independent and does not receive commissions or referral fees from any vendor.

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