Surrogacy in Canada: Top 25 Things Intended Parents Must Know
Surrogacy in Canada is a cost-effective process that helps partners or couples unable to conceive on their own to smile again.
Several medical conditions can prevent either the man or woman in an intimate relationship from making babies according to research. Such situations include STIs/STDs, permanent contraceptives, reproductive organs removal, and many more.
While taking fertility drugs or hoping for a miracle may seem like an endless wait for a baby, science has produced an easier option. Surrogacy!
Surrogacy has been existing since the days of the Old Testament (biblical).
Abraham and Sarah agreed and had their servant, Hagar, conceive a child as a surrogate mother.
However, a practical treatment option for surrogacy has been available since the 1970s with the success of in-vitro fertilization and the transfer of embryos conceived in a clinical lab.
So, if you are considering a surrogacy “journey,” especially in Canada, you should know the terms and people involved, cost, legal requirements, among others.
Continue reading to learn everything about surrogacy in Canada before taking any steps.
What Is Surrogacy in Canada?
Surrogacy is a fertility process in which a woman carries and delivers a pregnancy for an intended infertile couple.
A Surrogacy agreement between them stipulates that the surrogate mother waives any parental rights and agrees to hand the baby over to the intended parents immediately after giving birth.
Surrogacy in Canada is slightly complicated and strictly monitored compared to the U.S., Ukraine, and some other countries.
In Canada, it is vital to observe the laws regarding assisted human reproduction to avoid severe penalties.
Ensure to take care regarding the legislation and legal issues related to surrogacy agreements.
Therefore, once you finally consider involving a third party in building your family, seek advice and guidance from a qualified fertility lawyer.
Is Surrogacy in Canada Legal?
This is one of the first questions that should come to mind when considering surrogacy in Canada.
Despite popular belief, Canada recognizes surrogacy as a legal practice.
However, there are a few restrictions regarding surrogacy in Canada. And various provinces in the country handle most of the bureaucracy.
The law only permits altruistic surrogacy, meaning that you cannot pay surrogate mothers more than out-of-pocket expenses.
According to the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, it is illegal to accept or consider a woman who acts as a surrogate. The act prohibits the payment of a surrogate mother for her services.
In addition, it is illegal for agencies to match surrogates with prospective parents for payment professionally.
Also, the government bans agencies from charging money for managing a surrogate’s cycle or pregnancy.
There is, however, no law prohibiting reimbursement of a surrogate mother’s reasonable expenses incurred as part of the surrogacy process.
In theory, Canada’s law treats every surrogacy journey as an independent one.
Despite this, many consulting firms provide agency-type services.
They provide parents with qualified surrogates and arrange the surrogacy contract privately with a Canadian lawyer.
Some consultancies will manage the clinic services and assist in moving the process along. Such a practice is not uncommon. However, cases had occurred when Canadian authorities closed such consultancies for going too far beyond the legal limits.
The Surrogacy Agreement in Canada
The Surrogacy Agreement must comply with the AHR Act and provincial and territorial laws. Note that the surrogacy arrangement may differ significantly (or be impossible altogether) based on the location of the prospective surrogate mother and intended parents.
Canadian law is very explicit and regulates surrogacy through the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. The act imposes the following restrictions on surrogacy in Canada:
- The payment of consideration to a woman to act as a surrogate mother is prohibited, and offers or advertisements requiring such payment.
- No person shall accept consideration for arranging for the services of a surrogate mother, offer to make such an arrangement for the procedure, or advertise the arranging of such services.
- No person shall pay consideration to another person to arrange for the services of a surrogate mother, offer to pay such procedures, or advertise its payment.
In short, parents can reimburse a surrogate mother for out-of-pocket expenses if the costs directly relate to her role as a surrogate and when she includes receipts.
If, for instance, the doctor certifies that a surrogate mother needs bed rest for her health and the embryo or fetus, the intended parents may reimburse her for the loss of wages.
However, costs that relate to surrogacy in Canada depend on the situation of different surrogate mothers.
In the same way, the government bans a professional surrogacy service from managing your surrogacy program or recruiting a woman for you.
People and Processes Involved in Surrogacy
As part of your surrogacy “journey,” you will face a variety of terms. You should familiarize yourself with each of them before beginning.
A surrogate mother, also known as a “gestational carrier,” is a woman who has agreed to carry the pregnancy for a couple struggling with infertility. As part of the agreement, a surrogate mother gives full custody of the baby to the intended parents.
She may either provide the eggs (traditional surrogacy) or carry the pregnancy with another woman’s egg (gestational surrogacy).
In some countries, surrogate mothers often get financial compensation (commercial surrogacy). However, she can choose to volunteer to help a childless couple. In this case, it is called altruistic surrogacy, the type of surrogacy in Canada.
Intended parents can be an individual or couple who gets to become the legal parents of the child born through surrogacy. Often, the intended father donates his sperm which makes him the legal father of the child.
On the other hand, the intended mother needs to go through some legal process to adopt or gain parental rights to the child. This process usually occurs in countries without specific legislation, as the pregnancy carrier becomes the legal mother.
In Canada, the intended mother does not have to go through the process of adoption. However, check with your legal adviser for more guide.
A professional consultancy that arranges and manages surrogacy procedures.
Most surrogacy agencies offer complete services. Some of the services include recruitment and evaluation of prospective surrogate mothers, clinical procedures arrangements, and overseeing the surrogate throughout the pregnancy.
In addition, they help to arrange legal services supporting the surrogacy process and offer support and counseling to the Intended Parents.
Although most surrogacy hospitals operate the agencies, you can find some reputable independent agencies that partner with surrogacy clinics.
In a case where a woman cannot donate her eggs, she can get eggs through an egg donor. You can find these donated eggs at specific agencies or ask a close friend or relative to donate their eggs.
Most countries, like Canada, prohibit known donors. So, in most cases, the egg donors are anonymous.
Also known as IVF, in-vitro fertilization is a procedure whereby human eggs or ovum are fertilized in the laboratory and allowed to develop into an embryo.
The embryo could either be used right away or frozen for future fertility use.
It is the transfer of an embryo (after the IVF process) into a woman’s uterus. The pregnancy carrier may either be an intended or biological mother or a surrogate mother.
In the self-cycle, both intended parents donate their sperms and ovum for the IVF cycle.
Using the biological woman’s eggs for the surrogacy process, she will undergo around 15 days of fertility procedures before retrieving her ova (eggs).
The biological father donates his sperm for the IVF procedure in the donor cycle, but an independent egg donor supplies the ova.
Types of Surrogacy
Different types or forms of surrogacy procedures are available. However, the legally practiced form of surrogacy in Canada is Altruistic Surrogacy.
Commercial surrogacy is a fertility procedure also known as paid surrogacy. Here, more than one parties involved in the surrogacy procedures are likely to benefit financially- often the surrogate and the agency.
However, several countries with strict surrogacy laws, like Canada, prohibit commercial surrogacy for ethical reasons.
But some countries like Ukraine, the United States, Greece, and some European nations.
This is an unpaid surrogacy agreement. Altruistic surrogacy agreements, for example, do not compensate the surrogate mother beyond her out-of-pocket expenses.
Similarly, commercial services like offering professional oversights and care and advertising for surrogates mothers cannot operate in countries that practice altruistic surrogacy.
Due to the limitations of altruistic surrogacy, finding a suitable surrogate can seem like a challenging task. Countries that practice this type of surrogacy include Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, and some Australian areas.
This form of surrogacy is an arrangement whereby the embryo is conceived via in-vitro fertilization and later transferred into a surrogate mother, who carries and delivers the child. In most cases, medical experts use the sperm and eggs of the intended parents to conceive the embryo. This means that they both share a genetic bond with the child.
Although some cases may require an egg donor, using a sperm donor in this type of surrogacy is rare.
In gestational surrogacy, the child is genetically related to both parents and not the surrogate mother. How this can work is that doctors never use the surrogate mother’s eggs to conceive the embryo.
So after the surrogate delivers, she gives up all rights to the child at birth.
This type of arrangement has existed for quite a long time. Here, the intended father directly impregnates the surrogate mother.
Fertility can occur through sexual intercourse or intrauterine insemination. Intrauterine insemination is the injection of sperm into a woman’s uterus.
Based on the agreement, the surrogate gives the baby to the intended parents and forfeits her own parental rights as soon as the child is born.
While this process seems like the easiest to do without so many procedures and paperwork, it is a risky approach from a legal view.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is both the genetic and birth mother of the baby. She could claim the baby even after the agreement since the intended mother has no biological connection to the child or parental rights.
Also called “Private Surrogacy,” the Independent Surrogacy does not involve any agencies or surrogacy companies.
Intended parents who choose independent surrogacy work directly with surrogates mothers manage their surrogates’ medical and legal processes, fertility treatments, and pregnancy.
The advantage of this form of surrogacy is its cheaper cost. It is significantly more affordable to use an Independent Surrogacy program than a typical agency program because it does not require professional services.
However, drawbacks with independent surrogacy, if ignored or omitted, could have grave implications. If the intended parents do not use an agency, they can be lax about the requirements for their surrogate.
In addition, they may use a surrogate who is not as medically fit or who a surrogacy agency would turn down. Furthermore, the intended parents might also omit specific important but costly details, such as background checks, health insurance, psychiatric evaluations, or even a signed surrogacy contract.
Growing Demand for Surrogates
Recent statistics Canada data reveal one-in-six (about 16 percent) Canadian couples are infertile. The infertility number has doubled since the 1980s.
The combination of infertility and increasing numbers of same-sex couples starting families has further increased the demand for surrogates.
Image source: www.cbc.ca (CBC NEWS)
While Canadian fertility clinics voluntarily report surrogate births, no public health agency tracks surrogate pregnancies. But their reports show that there were 816 surrogate births between the years 2013 and 2017.
After you consider the agencies, lawyers, and fertility clinics’ fees into account, couples can quickly discover that they pay up to $100,000 per pregnancy.
The Canadian government adopted reproductive legislation in 2004 to prohibit the exploitation of women and the commercialization of surrogacy.
If you pay a surrogate mother for things other than pregnancy-related requirements, the Canadian government can fine you $500,000 or jail you up to 10 years.
What’s the Cost of Surrogacy in Canada?
Surrogacy in Canada is actually more expensive than many couples initially think. The total cost may be about $85,000 USD if everything goes well with the first transfer and your surrogate gets pregnant right away.
The Canadian government forbids commercial surrogacy in Canada, but you can reimburse surrogates for expenses related to the pregnancy.
As a result of a lack of definition and no limit, the law of Canada does not specify what expenses are eligible for reimbursement. Also, there are very lax restrictions regarding costs.
In practice, surrogates often stipulate between $25,000 and $30,000 USD for eligible expenses in their contracts. And if the surrogate mother is a demanding person or even experienced, she is likely to ask for extras and travel expenses which can reach a high amount.
For example, it might be necessary to add on extras for organic food, wellness, therapy, loss of wages, among others. It is also possible for the initial clinic proposal not to include medications, which can sometimes be quite expensive.
Here is a rough breakdown of how much might be your total cost.
- Fees for attorneys could cost around $20,000
- Clinical procedures could cost approximately $25,000
- An egg donor can be between $5000 and $15,000
- Surrogate compensation is about $30,000
- Travel, hotel, and more can be around $5000 to $10,000
Hence, the total cost for a program that includes just one initial embryo transfer is roughly $85,000. But extra embryo transfers are between $3000 and $5000 for each fertility attempt.
Surrogacy and baby medical expenses vary considerably. The social security system pays for all of the surrogate’s health care before and after the child’s birth.
However, it is the parents’ responsibility to take care of their newborn. In some cases, they may need private medical insurance or have to pay out-of-pocket expenses. For a newborn, hospital care costs about $1000 per day.
Benefits of Surrogacy in Canada
Surrogacy in Canada has its benefits, irrespective of the strict laws.
These programs typically have a low cost, which is significantly lower than premium agency-managed programs in the U.S. In the U.S., programs typically cost from $90,000 USD to $120,000 USD. Surrogacy in Canada costs approximately $85,000 CAD (roughly $75,000 USD).
These savings are primarily due to lower agency fees and altruistic surrogacy obligations, along with Canadian dollar value.
Another benefit is that the Canadian government grants automatic citizenship to a baby born by surrogacy in Canada at birth. The Canadian passport of a newborn allows parents to return to their home country quickly.
Additionally, Canada has a national health care system that covers both the surrogate’s prenatal care and the pregnancy’s delivery. This Canadian privilege minimizes the cost of medical treatments throughout the pregnancy journey and that of insurance premiums like in the U.S.
However, Canada’s social security system does not cover foreign citizens’ children, so parents are responsible for care in the neonatal intensive care unit or an incubator when a child is born prematurely.
Thankfully, you can find insurance policies that will cover these costs, so it is a good idea to look into them before you transfer the embryo.
Starting and Managing Your Surrogacy in Canada
If you and your partner have decided to continue and navigate the process of surrogacy in Canada independently, follow these first steps.
- Look for a lawyer who has experience in surrogacy cases in Canada. An experienced lawyer will handle all legal issues and paperwork regarding the clinic, the surrogate, and the egg donor.
- You can find online platforms that connect the surrogate and the donor. Even though this is technically illegal, a few “consultancies” can introduce you to potential surrogate candidates.
Major organizations can locate qualified surrogates in a few months. However, others may require as long as a year to find more thoroughly evaluated surrogates.
Generally, the number of surrogates is low in Canada, so parents should present themselves positively to persuade a desirable or suitable surrogate to work with them.
- Once the surrogate is selected, intended parents can pick a clinic near her home with a good reputation. You will find quite a few In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy clinics in Canada. Fortunately, most of these clinics are reasonably reputable.
- Some surrogacy agencies in Canada claim to provide surrogacy services, but they are more focused on offering consultation services without participating directly in the surrogacy process. There has been a history of run-ins with the government, and many of these agencies remain litigated or have received civil penalties. Potential or intended parents should thoroughly review any agency or service provider for a history of unethical activity.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Surrogacy in Canada
Is surrogacy in Canada legal?
The process of surrogacy in Canada is legal, but it is restricted, with the various provinces handling most of the paperwork.
Therefore, the law permits altruistic surrogacy only. This means that surrogate mothers are only allowed to receive out-of-pocket expenses as compensation.
In Canada, surrogacy agencies cannot manage a surrogate’s cycle or oversee the pregnancy journey for payment. Despite these restrictions, most “consultancies” carefully follow the law to provide agency-style services.
How will AHRA changes impact Surrogacy laws?
A new law regulating surrogacy in Canada, the AHRA Act, was announced for 2019.
As a result of the changes, Canadian surrogate mothers will no longer receive financial incentives, making it more challenging to locate them.
Also, agencies now have to carefully work around the new surrogacy laws to avoid government penalties in their province.
How much does surrogacy in Canada cost?
The cost of surrogacy in Canada goes for about $90,000 CAD. Compared to surrogacy in the USA, this price is much lower. However, it is somewhat higher than the legal programs in Colombia or Ukraine.
Savings can be attributed to lower Agency Fees (agencies are technically illegal in Canada) and lower surrogate compensation.
How do I choose which organizations to work with?
An international surrogacy journey (most significantly) cannot be successful or smooth without choosing the right professional surrogacy partners.
Referrals from friends, colleagues, and fertility professionals you may have worked with in the past are always helpful, as they usually provide the first-hand information.
In addition, you have to carefully do your own findings by checking their websites, finding reviews, and possibly visiting the surrogacy in Canada you consider engaging with.
After a successful surrogacy journey, you may need some guidance and tips on how to be first-time parents. Here are some articles that can help you achieve easy parenting.