At Medfem Fertility Clinic we are pleased to help couples who require surrogacy to have children. Our specialists have years of shared experience to help clients become parents through gestational surrogacy. We’ve been helping couples have children through surrogacy for over a decade and perform surrogacy regularly for couples each year. 

Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another (commissioning) couple or person. Surrogacy arrangements can be complex undertakings for both the commissioning couple and the surrogate. Therefore, it is important that patients are well informed about the steps involved. Here, we try to outline some of the key issues and steps required when pursuing a surrogacy arrangement.

IMPORTANT PLEA: Medfem Fertility Clinic welcomes any woman who would like to come forward and volunteer to be a surrogate. For more information contact Sister Krina at Medfem Fertility Clinic: 011 463 2244 or email: ivfsisters@medfem.co.za or for information, support and advice visit the Surrogacy Advisory Group at www.surrogacy.co.za 

Potential surrogates please note that according to South African law, surrogacy can only be done for altruistic reasons and secondly, you must have had a child of your own. If you have not yet had a child, you are unfortunately not eligible to be a surrogate.

There are two types of surrogacy:

  • Traditional surrogacy is when a woman (called a surrogate mother) carries and delivers a pregnancy conceived with her eggs for a couple. After the birth she gives the child to the intended parents with whom she has a contract. 
  • Gestational carrier surrogacy is when a woman (called a gestational carrier) becomes pregnant after an embryo is transferred into her uterus. The embryo was created from another woman’s eggs, and so the gestational carrier is not genetically related to the child. After birth, she gives the child to the biological mother and/or father. 

Under South African law, a surrogate mother may be reimbursed for expenses such as prenatal vitamins, costs of travelling to the doctor, and loss of income. However, she cannot receive any sort of wage for carrying the child.

To be a surrogate in South Africa a woman must be healthy, have a BMI below 35, be under age 42, have had at least one healthy, term pregnancy with a living child of your own, and not have had more than two caesarean sections. 

At Medfem Fertility Clinic we pride ourselves in providing a thorough screening process, commitment to safety, and full disclosure of the risks and successes of surrogacy. Intended parents require a legal contract between themselves and the potential surrogate. This legal contract is arranged privately with confirmation and authorisation being arranged by the high court. Also, a counselling session is required for the intended parents and the surrogate prior to starting treatment. Prospective surrogates undergo a comprehensive history and physical evaluation at our clinic to ensure safety for the pregnancy and surrogate. Once these medical, legal and counselling components are complete we can start the process.

Traditional Surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy is an option for a woman who does not have functioning ovaries nor a functioning uterus. Examples of causes include:

  • After a hysterectomy that includes removal of the ovaries
  • Previous radiation or other treatment that has damaged the uterus and ovaries

Traditional surrogacy can also be used by same sex male couples who want to conceive. 

In the case of traditional surrogacy the intended mother is not genetically related to the baby as the surrogate’s eggs are used with the intended father’s sperm to conceive the child. The surrogate carries and delivers the child, giving the child to the intended parents after the birth.

At this point in time, the surrogate mother can within a defined window period, contest the agreement if she is not willing to give the child to the intended parents. 

Gestational carrier surrogacy

Uterine factor is a well recognised cause of infertility.  When a uterine problem is diagnosed to be severe and beyond repair, couples may still conceive and have a child through gestational surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, embryos are conceived with IVF using the intended parents’ eggs and sperm, and then transferred into the gestational carrier’s (gestational surrogate) uterus.  

A certain percentage of women who have healthy ovaries are incapable of carrying a pregnancy for various reasons, including:

  • Absent uterus (e.g. after hysterectomy)
  • Untreatable uterine abnormalities (e.g. severe scarring)
  • Medical reasons that make pregnancy unsafe (e.g. heart disease, cystic fibrosis, a history of hormone responsive cancer)
  • Recurrent pregnancy loss

Once the medical, psychological and legal components are in place, the intended parents under go In Vitro Fertilisation and the resulting embryo(s) are transferred into the carrier’s uterus. After the birth, the surrogate then gives the child to the intended parents.

Finding a Surrogate Carrier

A surrogate may be known to the commissioning couple (typically relatives or friends who volunteer to carry the pregnancy) or unknown to the commissioning couple (usually introduced through a third party). Since it is illegal to pay for surrogacy services or to advertise to pay for surrogacy services in South Africa, finding a surrogate can be time consuming and difficult. While there are agencies and consultants that assist in making connections between surrogates and recipient couples, patients should be aware that current law also prohibits these companies and consultants from charging for this service. We highly recommend that intended parents contact the Surrogacy Advisory Group for further information www.surrogacy.co.za.

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