Other paths to parenthood
Giving birth yourself or having your partner become pregnant aren’t the only ways to become a parent. This chapter talks about other paths to parenthood you may want to consider, including surrogacy, adoption and fostering.
Learn more about:
Surrogacy may be an option if you are unable or do not wish to carry a pregnancy. For example, you may choose a surrogate to carry your embryo if you do not have a uterus or you have been advised that it is medically too risky to carry a pregnancy.
In Australia, a surrogate is a healthy female who carries a donated embryo to term. The surrogate cannot use her own eggs. The embryo can be created from the egg and sperm from the intended parents or a donor. The embryos are implanted into the surrogate’s uterus through IVF.
In Australia, it is illegal to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate or to pay a surrogate for her services. Non-commercial or altruistic surrogacy is legal. It’s common for people to ask someone they know to be the surrogate. If surrogacy is an option, you may need to cover the surrogate’s medical costs and other reasonable expenses.
Surrogacy is a complex process for everyone involved. The fertility clinic organising it ensures that both the donor and surrogate go through counselling and psychiatric testing before the process begins. An ethics committee may also have to approve your case. This ensures that all parties make a well-informed decision. The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority provides a lot of useful information about surrogacy, including a helpful domestic surrogacy arrangement legal checklist.
Paid surrogacy is legal in some countries overseas. However, in some Australian states and territories it is a criminal offence for residents to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements overseas – you will need to check that it is legal in your state or territory.
It is also important to seek independent legal advice about parentage, citizenship and any conditions you and the surrogate have to meet. For more information on international surrogacy, visit smarttraveller.gov.au.
This is general information about surrogacy. Laws vary across Australia and may change. Check with your local fertility clinic for the current legislation in your state or territory. It’s best to consult a lawyer before entering into a surrogacy agreement.
Adoption involves becoming the legal parent of a child who is not biologically yours and looking after them permanently. Although the number of adoptions in Australia each year is low, you may be able to adopt a child within Australia or from an overseas country.
Fostering (foster care) means taking responsibility for a child without becoming the legal parent. Types of foster care include emergency, respite, short-term and long-term care. In Australia, there are more opportunities to foster than to adopt.
Most adoption and fostering agencies say they do not rule out adoption or fostering for cancer survivors on the basis of their medical history. However, all applicants must declare their health status. The agency may also speak directly with your doctor and require you to have a medical examination. The intention is to determine the risk of the cancer returning and your capacity to raise a child.
Applicants for adoption and fostering must also be willing to meet other criteria. The agency from your state or territory may send a representative to assess your home, and you will have a criminal record (background) check. The process depends on where you live and if the child is from Australia or overseas.
For more information about adoption and foster care, visit the family and community service government website in your state or territory. For a guide to overseas adoption, visit the Australian Government’s website at intercountryadoption.gov.au.
I was treated for cancer about 50 years ago when I was a toddler and the radiation therapy damaged my ovaries. After I married, I tried fertility drugs but didn’t have a viable pregnancy. We then applied for adoption. After a five-year wait, we received my daughter at seven weeks old. She was my baby from the minute I laid eyes on her.Sylvia
Dr Ying Li, Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist, RPA Fertility Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Dr Antoinette Anazodo, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW, and Lead Clinician for Youth Cancer NSW/ACT; Paul Baden, Consumer; Dawn Bedwell, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Maurice Edwards, Special Counsel, Watts McCray Lawyers, NSW; Helena Green, Clinical Sexologist and Counsellor, InSync for Life, WA; Dr Michelle Peate, Program Leader, Psychosocial Health and Wellbeing Research (emPoWeR) Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Women’s Hospital, The University of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Kate Stern, Gynaecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Head, Fertility Preservation Service, Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Resea ch Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Renee Van Den Bosch, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.