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Surrogacy in Australia: How it works & what it costs


Whether fertility challenges have led you here, or you’re looking to start a family with your same-sex partner, surrogacy is a legit way you could bring a baby into the world!

Admittedly, the surrogacy process is a bit complex in Australia – which would explain why there are only about 90–100 surro-babies born nationwide each year. BUT, it’s not impossible to conceive a child this way.

So let’s dive into the cold, hard surrogacy facts you’re here for. In this article, we’ll explore the legalities of surrogacy in Australia vs. overseas surrogacy, how it works, and what costs are involved for the intended parents (AKA you and your partner, or just you if you’re going solo!).

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy Australia defines the surrogacy meaning quite eloquently, we think:

Surrogacy refers to an arrangement for a woman to become pregnant and give birth to a child for another couple or single person, with the intention of giving that child to the couple/person once they are born.

So essentially it involves a ‘surrogate mother’ giving birth to a baby on behalf of the child’s ‘intended parents’ (yes, this is all legit surrogacy lingo). 

It’s also worth noting that there are two different types of surrogacy:

  1. A traditional surrogacy is when the woman who’ll carry and birth the baby provides genetic input too. In this case, the intended father’s sperm is artificially inseminated into the surrogate mother. This form of surrogacy isn’t very common in Australia, and some fertility clinics don’t offer it as an option at all.

  1. A gestational surrogacy is when the birth mother doesn’t provide the egg for the pregnancy, so isn’t genetically related to the child. Rather, IVF is used to transfer a fertilised egg (maybe your own!) into her body.

That should clear up the common question of, ‘do surrogate mothers pass DNA?’, too. (Only in the first case.)

Why would you choose surrogacy?

You might think about the option of surrogacy if:

  • You’re not able to fall pregnant. (This could be due to fertility issues, or not having a uterus or ovaries. Maybe you’ve had a hysterectomy or you’re a trans mama.)

  • You have a health condition that makes pregnancy or birth dangerous.

It’s also an option for single men or gay couples who want to have a child.

And why would anyone choose to be a surrogate mother?

This is a fair question. I mean, why on earth someone would voluntarily endure nine months of pregnancy (and all its *fun* symptoms), bear the physical and emotional trauma of birth, and not even take a baby home at the end of it all. Crazy, right?

Surrogate mothers typically need to undergo psychological counselling and assessment before entering into a surrogate agreement, to make sure they seriously want to do it. Perhaps this insight from Family Creation Lawyer and surrogate mother Sarah Jefford can provide some understanding on the matter:

“When it comes to handing over the baby to the intended parents, it is not just something we are happy to do, it feels completely natural and amazing, and we don’t have a second thought about it. I haven’t met a surrogate who has reconsidered whether she will hand over the baby at the birth.”

(Hopefully that expels your worries about having a surrogate mother wanting to keep your baby!)

Surrogates are often friends or relatives who want to help you have a family of your own. And occasionally, people even want to do this for complete strangers. That rare breed of women who actually enjoy getting pregnant, and just want to bring babies and love into the world. Amazing humans.

How does surrogacy work in Australia?

First of all, only altruistic surrogacy is allowed. That means that the surrogate mother volunteers to carry your child, and doesn’t receive any financial benefit for her efforts. Yes, you cover all her medical costs, but she does not get paid to do it. (That’s known as ‘commercial surrogacy’.)

Is commercial surrogacy legal in Australia? No. It’s illegal to pay a woman to carry your baby, even if you’re both okay with it. That’s because it kind of borders on ‘buying a child’ or ‘buying access to a woman’s body’, which is a bit iffy by UN human rights standards.  

Just to throw another weird spanner in the works, it should also be mentioned that surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in Australia. So the surrogate mother can technically decide to keep the baby, and the intended parents can decide not to accept the baby. 

WTF?! 

This piece of legislation probably sounds ridiculous, but it’s why you need to work so hard to tick all the boxes in the first place: find a suitable surrogate mother, get surrogacy counselling, get appropriate legal advice, and form an official agreement with clear expectations. So no one gets cold feet.

When it comes to the pernickety details of surrogacy in Australia, the rules differ by state. Let’s lay out some of the key differences.

Different laws on surrogacy in Australia

Surrogacy New South Wales

  • Both intended parents and surrogate mothers must be at least 25 years old.
  • Gestational and traditional surrogacy is permitted.

Surrogacy ACT

  • Intended parents must be at least 25 years old. Surrogate mother must be at least 18 years old.
  • Intended parents must be married or in a de facto relationship (no singles).
  • Surrogate mother must have birthed her own child(ren). (AT 18!)

Surrogacy Victoria

  • Intended parents must be at least 18 years old. Surrogate mothers must be at least 25 years old.
  • The surrogate mother must have previously carried and birthed a baby.
  • Gestational and traditional surrogacy is permitted.
  • The intended mother must provide proof that she can’t get pregnant herself, or that it would be dangerous to do so.

Surrogacy Tasmania

  • Intended parents must be at least 21 years old. Surrogate mothers must be at least 25 years old.
  • The surrogate mother must have previously carried and birthed at least one live child.
  • Only gestational surrogacy is permitted. (i.e. the surrogate can’t be genetically related to the baby)

Surrogacy South Australia

  • Intended parents must be at least 18 years old. Surrogate mother and their partner must be at least 25 years old.
  • Both parties must be Australian citizens or permanent residents.
  • Gestational and traditional surrogacy is permitted.

Surrogacy Western Australia 

  • Intended parents must be at least 18 years old, and at least one needs to be over 25 years old to get a Parentage Order (meaning you are regarded as the baby’s legal parents). Surrogate mothers must be at least 25 years old.
  • Gestational and traditional surrogacy is permitted.
  • If the intended parent is a single woman, she must provide evidence of infertility or likely birth complications.

Surrogacy Northern Territory

Absolute grey area! There are no laws about surrogacy in the Northern Territory, meaning it’s not legal. But it’s also not illegal. People are lobbying to get some legislation around this, but it’s a work in progress.

Surrogacy Queensland

  • Intended parents and surrogate mothers must be at least 25 years old.
  • Gestational and traditional surrogacy is permitted.

Some itsy-bitsy differences from state to state, huh?

There are some additional stipulations too. In some states you need to get counselling before you enter a surrogacy agreement. Some place rules around whether or not you’re allowed to advertise for, or as, a surrogate mother in Australia (i.e. by posting on social media). And some consider it an offence to enter an overseas commercial surrogacy agreement. 

Check out the specifics on your state’s surrogacy legislation over on the Surrogacy Australia website.

Is overseas surrogacy an option?

Sometimes, yes. This could result in a speedier surrogacy process in some cases, and may allow you to ‘get around’ some of Australia’s surrogacy laws.

But before you sign up with an international surrogacy agency, know that overseas surrogacy can be tricky too. Think about:

  • Australian laws – Depending where you live in Australia, it may be illegal to enter into a commercial surrogacy arrangement overseas. You could even end up with jail time if you try to swing it! (We’re looking at you, ACT, NSW and QLD.)

  • Destination country laws – Some countries don’t allow surrogacy for international citizens, or won’t allow it for single women or LGBT people. Check the fineprint is all we’ll say. The last thing you want is to be arrested for illegally ‘purchasing a child’.

  • Citizenship and access to Australia – Usually, children are automatically considered a citizen of the country their birth mother lives in. You may require DNA testing, written consents, and documentation to bring your baby back into Australia from overseas.

So while overseas surrogacy isn’t out of the question, it can be complicated. You can find out more information about the process over on the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website. And always, always get legal advice if you’re considering surrogacy, both inside and outside the country.

Navigating the surrogacy process in Australia

Just gonna set expectations here: It’s quite a process. Surrogate babies aren’t really a nine-month-turnaround situation.

On average, it may take two to three years from when you start to look for a surrogate mother to when you take your baby home from the hospital. This is because there are a lot of legal hoops to jump through first, and IVF may take a few rounds to result in a pregnancy.

Here’s how the surrogacy process generally unfolds once you locate a surrogate mother:

  1. Qualify for surrogacy – Intended parents and surrogate mothers need to meet the criteria set by state laws. You often need to have ‘surro-dated’ (dated your surrogate) for at least six months before you can enter a surrogacy agreement.

  2. Medical reviews – Surrogate mothers will need to pass health checks and be seen by an obstetrician. A history of pregnancy issues may mean your surrogate won’t qualify.

  3. Counselling and legal advice – Surrogates and intended parents need to receive counselling about surrogacy. Sometimes state law enforces this, and sometimes it’s the fertility clinic you go through. This is a BIG decision for all people involved, so it makes sense to have an unbiased third party make sure everyone knows what they’re getting into. You’ll also need to get advice from independent lawyers.

  4. Assisted reproduction – Once the reproductive clinic or external committee signs off on the surrogacy agreement, you can begin assisted reproductive treatments. This might include harvesting your eggs or your partner’s sperm, and IVF treatments for your surrogate.

  5. Ongoing pregnancy care – You’ll start to discuss plans for birth and delivery, and stay in touch with your surrogate throughout the pregnancy so you can see how your bub is developing.

  6. Birth – Time to meet your newborn. There’s nothing like that magical moment you hold your baby for the first time. You might like to give them some skin-to-skin contact with the surrogate mother and breastfeeding time, or get started with bottle-feeding if that’s your preferred choice.

  7. Baby time – Remember, you’ll financially support your surrogate through her postpartum recovery, including covering the time she needs off work.

And now begins the hard work of learning to care for a newborn (that’s all you, mama!). The final step in your surrogacy journey is applying to the Supreme Court for a Parentage Order to ‘officially’ become the parent of your newborn. You’re a mum now. Amazing!

Cost of surrogacy in Australia

So how much does surrogacy cost in Australia? As with pregnancy and birth in general, costs can vary widely. But because surrogacy involves legal stuff, assisted reproductive technologies, and other services like surrogacy counselling, it will cost more than your typical birth. 

Surrogacy Australia states that the average cost of surrogacy in Australia is between $55,000 and $60,000 over a two-year period. But of course, this depends on how many rounds of IVF are needed and how fancy your prenatal care is.

Sarah Jeffords offers a really useful Surrogacy Process Chart with an outline of where costs are spent. It also puts some context around the question of, ‘how long does the surrogacy process take?’ – because this depends on a few factors.

As you’re probably aware by now, all costs need to be covered by the intended parents. That’s you. Think: pregnancy checkups and scans, the surrogate mother’s time off work, postpartum care, and her weird pregnancy food cravings. (That last one might need to be negotiable.)

How to find a surrogate mother in Australia

In most cases, people turn to their family and friends for help with surrogacy. It might be a sister, cousin or bestie that decides they want to give you the best gift of all: a family. But there are other options if you’re struggling to find a willing candidate to carry your child.

Find online communities

While there’s no Gumtree for surrogate mothers, there are a few respected online communities that connect intended parents with surrogates. Check out Egg Donation Australia and Australian Surrogacy Community – two credible Facebook groups that have helped many parents kick off committed surro-dating relationships.

Ask your support team

Chat to your doctor, fertility specialist, or fertility counsellor. They can put you in touch with support services and organisations that exist to help mothers like you start the family they’ve always dreamed of.

It’s so exciting that modern technology and options like surrogacy are making parenthood more available to women experiencing infertility or other challenges with becoming mums. Whether you’re a surrogate or an intended mum (both are real mums!) Mumli is here for you. Download the app now to get started on your journey.

Surrogacy Australia, I need a surrogate; what’s next? 

Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, Surrogacy

Smart Traveller, Going overseas for international surrogacy

Sarah Jefford, How Do I Find a Surrogate in Australia?

IVF Australia, Surrogacy

Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand, Surrogacy

Sarah Jefford, Surrogacy Process Chart

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