Third Party Reproduction
The term ‘third-party reproduction’ refers to the use of eggs, sperm or embryos that have been donated by a third person (donor) to enable an infertile individual or couple (recipient/s) to become parents. It also includes surrogacy.
Surrogacy refers to situations where a woman (the surrogate) carries and delivers a child on behalf of another person or persons. While biologically relatively simple, it is one of the most difficult treatment scenarios in terms of ethics and law as the interests of the intended parents, the surrogate and the future child must all be protected, and these interests may differ.
Medical surrogacy, also referred to as ‘gestational carriage’ requires IVF. In this case, a woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy herself (e.g. no uterus/womb) can have her own genetic child by performing IVF with her eggs and her partner’s sperm. These are used to create an embryo, which is then transferred to the womb of another woman (the surrogate). The surrogate carries the pregnancy for the commissioning couple. Medical surrogacy is less commonly indicated where a woman has a medical condition causing serious risk to her were she to become pregnant, e.g. serious heart disease.
In this case, the surrogate herself may provide the egg, or either the egg or the sperm or both may be donated by a third-party donor. In recent years there has been an increase worldwide in the number of gay men having families via surrogacy arrangements. There is also an increasing trend for heterosexual couples who have failed to conceive via standard IVF to consider surrogacy using the male partner’s sperm and eggs from either the surrogate or another third-party egg donor. The medical indications for this are not always clear.
The procedures for surrogacy are similar to those for general IUI (if the surrogate is using her own eggs) and IVF/ICSI where the eggs come from the commissioning woman or are donor eggs.
Merrion Fertility Clinic offers a very limited surrogacy programme for patients who have specific medical indications for surrogacy. Patients must also have a suitable family member/close friend who is willing to act as a surrogate and who is deemed by the clinic to be suitable. All must be resident in Ireland.
For Irish couples seeking surrogacy, the National Infertility and Support Group (NISIG) have outlined some important advice:
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