Surrogate births: Mothers back surrogacy

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RED TAPE surrounding adoption means that many childless parents find it easier to turn to surrogacy even though they may pay up to pounds 40,000 for their child.

A study by Birmingham University shows that most surrogate mothers are happy with their decision and describe the experience as "very positive". The parents' major fear was that the surrogate mother would refuse to give up the child - as has happened in a number of high-profile cases - but they felt that tighter regulation would prevent this.

Last year, for example, a Dutch couple began a legal battle to gain custody of a child after the surrogate British mother, Karen Roche, refused to give her up.

Dr Olga van den Akker told the conference that women who chose to find surrogate mothers had clear reasons for not being able to have their own babies. Thirty five per cent had had a hysterectomyand another 30 per cent had been born without a womb.

The women Dr van den Akker spoke to were mainly in their thirties and had tried other means such as IVF and adoption before turning to surrogacy. "They had looked into adoption," she said, "and some had tried that but had had many problems with actually adopting babies and there seemed to be less problems with surrogacy." The women told her that they paid between pounds 10,000 and pounds 40,000 in their quest for a child.

They did not always choose the first surrogate they met, with 26 per cent feeling the surrogate was not appropriate. In 6 per cent of cases the surrogate pulled out and a further 13 per cent saw the treatment fail.

But of the arrangements which resulted in pregnancy, except for two which ended in miscarriage, all resulted in healthy babies which were handed over by the surrogate to the parents. The majority of surrogate mothers were "delighted" to do so. Parents were most likely to say they had found the experience positive and felt that the surrogate genuinely wanted to help.

Financial expense was almost as much of a problem for couples as the fear that the surrogate would not hand over the baby. Other potential worries were whether the baby would be healthy and possible legal complications.

"Although there are many tensions, and sometimes expectations do get shattered, for the most part participants describe their experience of surrogacy as very positive," said Dr van den Akker.