Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Having a baby through a surrogate mother, costs and surrogacy agencies in Kenya

Former Taita Taveta Woman Representative Joyce Lay was unable to have children after her uterus and fallopian tubes got damaged.

“After my fallopian tubes were damaged and cut off, the doctors realized that my cervix was closed. I couldn’t pass my periods. Everything would just collect in the uterus,” she said in an interview a few months after the birth of her child through surrogate parenthood.

“After collecting in the uterus, the periods would just gush out, forcing me to wear diapers because the normal pads couldn’t hold.”

This resulted in shame and utero pain. To stop the pain, Joyce was advised to have her uterus removed. She didn’t want to because hysterectomy would take away her only chance to have a baby of her own. “I was forced by my condition to undertake the removal,” she said.

After her hysterectomy, Joyce felt an overwhelming emptiness. She wanted a child of her own. She considered adoption, but set the idea aside because it would not fill the void and desire of having her own child.

She then started considering surrogacy. Fortunately, one of her close friends volunteered to carry the pregnancy for her. “I felt moved by what she was going through. I wanted to bless her with the joy of motherhood,” her child’s surrogate mother said.

Asked if she felt anything after giving birth and passing the child unto Joyce, the surrogate mother said that it never bothered her. “I only remember if asked how that pregnancy was or when reminded that I was once pregnant with someone’s child,” she said.

What is surrogacy?

Faced with infertility and inability to carry pregnancy to term, more women are nowadays embracing surrogacy. Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman agrees to carry and deliver a child for another woman.

In the surrogacy procedure, the embryo is formed using the commissioning father’s sperm and the commissioning mother’s eggs. This usually happens where a couple intends to become parents.

Where one party is only interested, the embryo is formed using the commissioning parent’s egg or sperm, and a donor’s egg or sperm. Once created, this embryo is transferred to the surrogate mother.

Types of surrogacy

There are two types of surrogacy, a gestational carrier and a traditional surrogate.

With gestational carriers, pregnancy is usually achieved through in vitro fertilization (IVF). With traditional surrogacy, pregnancy is usually achieved through intrauterine insemination (IUI) using sperm from a donor or intended father.

According to Ayieta Lumbasyo, an Advocate and Bio-Ethicist, and the current legal and ethical officer at the Nairobi IVF Centre, traditional surrogacy where a surrogate is impregnated using her own eggs is not legally enforceable or perceived as surrogacy.

Costs of surrogacy

Surrogacy agencies in Kenya mainly target foreign couples and aspiring parents. The majority of them such as New Life Kenya, Growing Families, and Surrogacy Agency Kenya have not listed their local contacts, but claim they can solicit and hook up commissioning parents with Kenyan surrogates at a fee.

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This fee can be as high as Sh. 4 million per pregnancy. At Surrogacy Agency Kenya, the fee ranges at between Sh. 800,000 and Sh. 3.6 million. Figures from the Nairobi IVF fertility centre shows that the actual costs of IVF are significantly lower.

Treatment cost varies from Sh. 462,000 and Sh. 492,000. Basic IVF – where gametes (egg and sperm) from the commissioning parties are used – costs Sh. 462,000. IVF with an oocyte (egg) donor costs Sh. 492,000 while IVF with sperm donor costs Sh. 482,000.

“The mode of IVF depends on these specifications, but these costs exclude compensation for the surrogate. The cost of hiring a surrogate varies from one surrogate to the other, but commonly ranges from Sh.500,000,” said Lumbasyo.

Surrogacy pointers to remember

According to Lumbasyo, there are certain pointers you should bear in mind when considering surrogacy. These include:

Pre-surrogacy counseling for both parties: This will help prepare you for any eventualities.

A reputable surrogacy agency: Ask your fertility doctor to recommend a reputable source for a gestational surrogate. With a reputable surrogate, chances that the money and baby transfer process will be smooth are high.

Gestational surrogacy agreement: Your surrogacy arrangement should at least be put in writing before the process starts. This agreement should be conducted with the help of an advocate.

Parental order: Once the child has been born, use the services of the advocate to obtain a parental order to transfer the names from those of the birth mother (surrogate) to the genetic/intended parents.

Don’t cut corners when looking to have a baby through surrogacy: When cutting corners, there will be high chances that you may end up getting stuck in a child-trafficking web.

Getting a surrogate                         

According to Lumbasyo, there are two foolproof ways you can use to get a surrogate mother who can carry a baby for you without creating problems along the way:

Relatives:  This could be your sister or close relative. Using a family member as a surrogate will cut down the costs and chances of being extorted.

Fertility clinics:  Legal fertility centres or clinics have a section that recruits surrogate mothers. “In our case, we have a surrogate coordinator who takes in women willing to be surrogate mothers before the commissioning parents come in.

These surrogates are taken through a vetting process that includes medical checkups and scans, certificate of good conduct, psychological and mental analysis,” she says. If you choose a fertility centre, their screening process must be above board.

Lumbasyo says the centre should visit the surrogate mother’s area chief, nearest police station, home, and verify any documents she presents such as certificate of conduct with the directorate of criminal investigations.

Surrogacy agencies

If you choose to use an independent surrogacy agency, take caution and ensure all proper checks and screening are done. “The majority of the mushrooming surrogacy agencies have a tendency to cut corners.

This can be very costly to the commissioning parents. A fraudulent agency can present a fake certificate of good conduct, chief’s acknowledgement letter, and even birth certificates,” cautions Lumbasyo.

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