Causes & Treatment

What the top surrogacy agencies are getting right, in 2022

Eloise Edington  |   15 Sep 2022

Carrying a baby for someone else. It’s an incredible act, and fundamentally life-changing for everyone involved. With global demand for surrogacy increasing (research shows that the number of people undergoing fertility support with surrogate involvement has shot up in recent years), the lense is on surrogacy agencies. Specifically, their practices, checks and balances, and the care with which they handle their surrogate candidates.

Taking exceptional care of surrogates

Whether a surrogate is carrying for a family member, a friend or an intended parent matched by one of the world’s top surrogacy agencies, the journey is completely unique, every time. We asked Be Parent – a full-service surrogacy agency with chapters in Georgia and Cyprus – for their take on current standards of care. Plus, how surrogacy agencies can do more to ensure the women they work with are supported, empowered and one side of an equal partnership with their matched intended parents. 

Be Parent Managing Partner and CEO, Naia Adamia, adds, “Good and holistic practice demands full-spectrum attention to the wellbeing of any woman giving of herself through the act of surrogacy.”

Surrogacy is a much-misrepresented area of the family-building world. And not without deep controversy, in and out of the media. What’s the benchmark for surrogate care, in 2022? 

Here are the priorities most-often singled out for reform. 

Straightforward, and legally-certain surrogacy 

The legal process around surrogacy can be exceptionally complex. And for very good reason – from application to delivery, the surrogacy journey (and parentage – find out more about parentage definitions and legal expertise to support) involves a huge amount of crucial decision-making. 

It’s an area of concern, and part of a global dialogue for reforms which make surrogacy safer. For example, setting parentage status from birth. And ensuring intended parent(s)’ and surrogate’s interests and position are aligned. How can surrogacy agencies work to make the legal process more straightforward?  

  • Legal consultation requirements, for intended parents (IPs), in their native country. By making these an essential part of the acceptance onto the program, IPs can fully understand the legalities of returning home with their baby. Having sound legal advice ahead of time from the IP’s family lawyer, in their home nation, is increasingly imperative to moving forward. It’s also important for each and every parent to take ownership of their legal status, and have an understanding themselves, before pursuing surrogacy anywhere in the world.
  • Paperwork completed early in the process. At Be Parent, for example, IPs are contracted to submit a solicitor’s list of required documents for exit and post-birth parentage, by 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • In-house legal teams to handle all legal concerns efficiently, under one roof, and in tandem with IPs’ own solicitors.
ivf fertility screening scan

Screening surrogates for financial stability

Vulnerability. It’s the driving criticism in so much of the dialogue surrounding surrogacy. Exploitation of a surrogate’s financial situation and social status is a real concern, with many headline instances of a desperate single mother ‘renting out’ her womb for financial compensation by her richer (and often older) counterpart. 

So what can surrogacy agencies do, to double-down on ensuring relative socio-economic status, age and other crucial factors don’t place the surrogate in a vulnerable position? 

The number one here is thorough screening measures and eligibility requirements. The onus is increasingly on surrogacy agencies to ensure all candidates are financially stable, and not participating in surrogacy as a means of survival. Whether by assessment or enquiry, this should be a core part of the screening process. 

Naia adds, “we also conduct social and family psychological screening, as well as criminal background clearance. Psychological screenings are performed by a licensed therapist with a degree in psychology and include personality and attitude assessment, as well as an in-depth interview for motive and personal background.

Only those who’ve completed this process are eligible to apply to our program as surrogate candidates.” 

Careful handling of the surrogate-IP relationship

For agencies like Be Parent, this aspect is exceptionally important. IP involvement during the pregnancy has the potential to change everything for a surrogate, and this should be for the better. 

In their guide for parents, Be Parent say,

“Our surrogate coordinator or a member of our team will be on-hand for all online communication and in-person visits. These must be pre-arranged in order to be mutually convenient on both sides.

Many of our surrogate team members are not first language English speakers, so we encourage you to have questions prepared in advance, as meeting your surrogate partner can be an emotional time (for both of you).

Before pandemic conditions, parents were invited to participate in scans and doctor’s visits, if able. As surrogate and baby’s health is of prime importance, and this isn’t possible, open-air meetings can be facilitated through your personal coordinator if desired.”

Support for physical and psychosocial aspects 

From embryo transfer to medical procedures, the pregnancy itself and birth, to pre/postnatal mental health – what can surrogacy agencies do to best support their candidates? 

We’re encouraged to see agencies providing: 

  • dedicated support across all assisted fertility processes, testing and screening 
  • 24-hour personal support and training, in the medical protocol phase
  • psychological assessment in advance of program registration, to ensure full consent and understanding 
  • nutrition and self-care workshops
  • professional counselling services throughout pregnancy, and during the postpartum period
  • 24-hour on-call personal coordinator support, in the surrogate’s native language 

Alongside all of this, Be Parent also provide:

  • an accredited Be Parent Surrogacy Doula, on staff to provide support during pregnancy and the postpartum period
  • 2 weeks of post-pregnancy care as a standard (and more, if needed)
  • a support member assigned to every surrogate, who can accompany on all appointments, handle any day-to-day needs that arise, and accompany during birth if desired
  • an events program for surrogates, helping build community and celebrate her journey with Be Parent
  • full medical coverage and insurance 

Preservation of human rights 

Ensuring that human rights for surrogate and child are of primary importance, we’d expect clear wording and policy around each of the following: 

  • a legal review of the surrogate’s contract – in her native language
  • options on birth and delivery – surrogates may have a preference – e.g a vaginal or c-section birth – so surrogacy agencies like Be Parent do well to factor this into their matching process, creating ‘preference pools’ so that carrier and IPs are only ever on the same page 
  • matching – surrogates shouldn’t be ’assigned’ to parents but, rather matched and decide who they are comfortable assisting
  • recruitment – in fact, candidates should not be ‘recruited’, but pro-actively seek out an agency’s services 
  • mediation – all communication between surrogates and intended parents should be mediated by the agency
  • multiples (e.g twin pregnancies), vaccinations, termination and birth attendance – all of these, amongst others, should be accompanied by clear policy wording, on the agency’s behalf 

Closing out our conversation, Naia adds –

“It takes many paintbrushes to create a masterpiece. And every party involved in a surrogacy journey has a crucial role to play. From the administrative side, behind the scenes, to the more active players centre stage – the medical team, the intended parents, and above all, the surrogate partner. There is a special choreography to a journey. The respectful dance between the intended parents’ vulnerable position, and the surrogate’s as an individual. Managing the integrity of this special partnership is ultimately how an agency defines itself.”

Find out more about the services Be Parent offer. Each team member has a personal surrogacy story, and whether you’re looking to become or match with a surrogate, their initial consultation is completely free.

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