Other paths to parenthood
Giving birth yourself or having your female partner become pregnant aren’t the only ways to become a parent. This page talks about other paths to parenthood.
Some people decide that the options described on this page aren’t for them. You may continue to try for a pregnancy – using the same or a different method – because you might feel strongly about bearing your own offspring.
Other people may decide not to pursue the goal of having children. See Being child-free.
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Surrogacy is an option for women if they are unable or do not wish 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 of either the intended parents or a donor. The embryos are implanted into the surrogate’s uterus through IVF.
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.
If surrogacy is an option, you will need to pay the medical costs of the IVF process and any additional expenses.
How to find a surrogate
In Australia, it is illegal to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate or to pay a surrogate for her services. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as altruistic surrogacy. It’s common for people to ask someone they know to be the surrogate.
Paid surrogacy is permitted in some countries overseas. The fertility clinic will have a list of conditions the surrogate will need to meet.
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 and fostering may also be options for people who want to become parents.
Adoption – This involves taking legal parental status of a child who is not biologically yours and looking after them permanently. You may be able to adopt a child within Australia or from an overseas country.
For more information about adoption, visit the family and community service government website in your state or territory.
For a guide to overseas adoption, visit the Australian Government’s intercountryadoption.gov.au or call 1800 197 760.
Fostering (foster care) – This means taking responsibility for a child without having legal parental status. 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 your cancer returning and your capacity to raise a child.
Applicants 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.
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.
We thank the reviewers of this booklet: Dr Yasmin Jayasinghe, Paediatric Gynaecologist, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, Co-chair Fertility Preservation Taskforce, Melbourne, and Senior Lecturer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Peter Downie, Head, Paediatric Haematology-Oncology and Director, Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital, and Director, Victorian Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service, VIC; Carmen Heathcote, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Aaron Lewis, Consumer; Pampa Ray, Consumer; Dr Sally Reid, Gynaecologist, Fertility SA and Advanced Gynaecological Surgery Centre, Visiting Consultant, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, The University of Adelaide, SA; A/Prof Kate Stern, Head, Fertility Preservation Service, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Melbourne IVF and Head, Endocrine/Metabolic Clinic, Royal Women’s Hospital, and Co-chair, AYA cancer fertility preservation guidance working group, VIC.
Fertility and Cancer was developed as part of a research study into the experience of fertility after cancer led by Prof Jane Ussher at the Centre for Health Research, Western Sydney University. For a list of the other chief and partner investigators, see cancercouncil.com.au. We acknowledge the input of Dr Amanda Hordern and Prof Jane Ussher, who collaborated on the original draft. We thank CanTeen Australia and the American Cancer Society for permission to draw on their resources. We also thank the cancer survivors who took part in the Western Sydney University research project on fertility and cancer, and whose accounts have been quoted in this booklet.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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