Other ways to be a parent
Giving birth yourself or having your partner become pregnant aren’t the only ways to become a parent. In the section we talk about other paths to parenthood you may want to consider, including surrogacy, adoption and fostering..
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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 intended parents or a donor provide the egg and sperm to create an embryo. This embryo is implanted into the uterus of the surrogate through IVF.
Advertising for someone to be a surrogate or to pay a surrogate for their services is illegal in Australia. Non-commercial or altruistic surrogacy is legal. It’s common for people to ask someone they know to be the surrogate. You can cover the surrogate’s medical costs and other reasonable expenses.
Surrogacy is a complex process. 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 everyone involved makes a well-informed decision. For detailed information about surrogacy, including a helpful domestic surrogacy arrangement legal checklist, visit the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority.
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. To find out more about international surrogacy, visit smarttraveller.gov.au.
This is general information about surrogacy. Laws regulating surrogacy vary across Australia and may change. Check with your local fertility clinic or legal adviser for the current legislation in your state or territory. It’s best to consult a lawyer before making a surrogacy arrangement.
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 based on 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. Intercountry Adoption Australia is an information and referral service to help guide people through the overseas adoption process. For details, visit Intercounty Adoption Australia.
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 5-year wait, we received my daughter at 7 weeks old. She was my baby from the minute I laid eyes on her.Sylvia
Prof Martha Hickey, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne and Director, Gynaecology Research Centre, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC; Dr Sally Baron-Hay, Medical Oncologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and Northern Cancer Institute, NSW; Anita Cox, Cancer Nurse Specialist and Youth Cancer Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Kate Cox, McGrath Breast Health Nurse Consultant, Gawler/ Barossa Region, SA; Jade Harkin, Consumer; A/Prof Yasmin Jayasinghe, Director Oncofertility Program, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Chair, Australian New Zealand Consortium in Paediatric and Adolescent Oncofertility, Senior Research Fellow, The Royal Women’s Hospital and The University Of Melbourne, VIC; Melissa Jones, Nurse Consultant, Youth Cancer Service SA/NT, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Dr Shanna Logan, Clinical Psychologist, The Hummingbird Centre, Newcastle West, NSW; Stephen Page, Family Law Accredited Specialist and Director, Page Provan, QLD; Dr Michelle Peate, Program Leader, Psychosocial Health and Wellbeing Research (emPoWeR) Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The Royal Women’s Hospital and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Pampa Ray, Consumer; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, and Chief Investigator, Out with Cancer study, Western Sydney University, NSW; Prof Beverley Vollenhoven AM, Carl Wood Chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Monash University and Director, Gynaecology and Research, Women’s and Newborn, Monash Health and Monash IVF, VIC; Lesley Woods, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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