surrogacy in ireland

Surrogacy in Ireland

Surrogacy is a way for a childless couple or individual to have a child, with a surrogate mother carrying the child. Arlene Harris looks at surrogacy in Ireland as she speaks to an Irish couple who travelled to the US to organise a surrogate mother, and provides expert advice on the laws in Ireland surounding this issue.

Surrogacy in Ireland – a personal story

For as long as she can remember, *Gail Healy has wanted children. When she was a little girl herself, the Dublin woman (who grew up in the UK) was rarely seen without a pram, a baby doll or some sort of feeding and changing paraphernalia. In her own words, she was born to be a mother. So when she married her husband John in 2001, she was anxious to start a family and more than happy to give up her well-paid job in the financial sector in order to stay home and look after the big family she planned on having. But as the weeks and months went by, there was no sign of a pregnancy occurring and while everyone assured her this was normal, by her first anniversary, she was beginning to get a bit anxious.

A struggle

“Everyone who knows me was aware that I wanted children as soon as I got married, but as time went by, nothing was happening and it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to get too hung up on things as I knew that sometimes stress can prevent conception, so I decided to wait a few more months before going to see anyone about it. But when we had been married a year and my period kept arriving each month like clockwork, I made an appointment with the doctor. She initially told me I had nothing to worry about, but I waited another six months and then went back to her again and pleaded with her to arrange some investigation.”

Tests on both Gail and John proved inconclusive and they were advised to just keep trying. As the years went by, the now 42-year-old was becoming more and more disillusioned and she and her husband decided to try to conceive using IVF – but unfortunately this proved unsuccessful.

“Five years into our marriage, I still hadn’t become pregnant so after much discussion, we decided to go down the IVF route,” she recalls. “It was very costly but we believed that it would be worth it in the end. However, it wasn’t to be and after two attempts, we were told that it was likely that my womb wasn’t a hospitable environment for a baby to grow – I was devastated. ”

“John was also upset, but as I had always wanted a baby of my own, I couldn’t believe that fate had been so cruel. We talked about adoption but I felt that it wouldn’t be the same as having a child, which was created with the man I love, so we decided to look into surrogacy.”

The process

Surrogate mothers need to be between 21 and 40 years of age, have had at least one child and be in good health themselves. With this information in mind, Gail contacted an agency and after an initial interview and counselling session, they were told that there was an American woman who ticked all the required boxes, was interested and able to carry their child for nine months.

“We spoke with the potential surrogate a number of times and then when we were all satisfied with the agreement, we decided to go ahead and had legal documents drawn up,” says Gail. “John and I travelled to the US where our eggs and sperm were harvested and then we waited for news on the resulting embryo. This was a very stressful time, but eventually we were told that we had a healthy embryo and our surrogate went to the clinic to have it planted in her womb. “

surrogacy in Ireland

“It is an extraordinarily scary time and is also extremely emotional. I would liken it almost to having a complete stranger look after your child at the other side of the world for nine months. I could hardly eat or sleep and even though we had to borrow a lot of money, we made sure that we got over there while she was pregnant and also for the final delivery.”

Parents at last

Almost a decade after they got married Gail finally became a mother and returned to Ireland in January 2012 with her daughter Hope. She says it was an extremely difficult process and one which could have gone wrong at any time, but thankfully everything worked out for them. “Holding my daughter in my arms for the first time was the most amazing experience of my life,” she says.

“I never thought we would finally get to be parents and I was overwhelmed for the first few days – two years later I still can’t believe how lucky we have been. “But surrogacy is not something which I would encourage women to undertake lightly. It is extremely costly, very emotional and can carry huge risks, but I wanted a baby so badly that I was willing to go the ends of the earth for it to happen – and thankfully my story has a happy ending.”

Many reasons for surrogacy

Helen Browne is the chairperson of NISIG – the National Infertility Support and Information Group. She says that while surrogacy is not available in Ireland, many couples are looking into the possibilities of travelling abroad to find a host mother and undergo the process, which will hopefully result in a pregnancy and eventually a baby.

“Many couples look to surrogacy in Ireland and it’s usually for medical reasons such as Turner Syndrome, where the uterus is too small, where the woman has had multiple miscarriages or if she has had a hysterectomy due to illness.”

“And one of the reasons they are looking towards surrogacy rather than adoption is because it is very difficult to adopt a child in Ireland, the waiting period is also very long and more often than not, couples will end up with a child who is five or six years old. And while this is still wonderful, some people just want to have a baby to hold in their arms and bring up from birth.”

More about adoption in Ireland

Surrogacy in Ireland

No legislation yet

The infertility expert, who is also a nurse, says there are no guidelines to help couples through this difficult period as there is currently no legislation on surrogacy in Ireland. “It is very hard for couples who decide they want to go down the surrogacy route as it isn’t available in Ireland so therefore there is no legislation and no guidelines,” she says. “What most people do is go online to forums where they can talk to other people who have been through it. ”

“Generally people tend to go to the US or India from Ireland where their eggs and sperm will be harvested and the resulting embryo transferred into the host. It can then take up to two weeks to find out if it was successful and this is a very trying time.”

“Once pregnancy has been confirmed, the would-be-parents usually travel back to visit the host mother around the 24-week scan and then at the end for the delivery of the baby. “We at NISIG aren’t affiliated with any group but we do hold meetings where people can talk about their experience and discuss how to take it further and if people want information or support about any aspect of infertility, they should get in touch.”

Surrogacy and Irish Law

  • Surrogacy is not illegal here but agreements are unenforceable. > If you have an agreement with a surrogate and she decides not to hand over the child, you can’t enforce the agreement by Irish law.
  • As most Irish couples go abroad for surrogacy, emergency travel guidelines must be issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • In order to be allowed into Ireland, the child has to be an Irish citizen – proof of this is needed so a DNA test has to be undertaken in the country of birth.

More you might like:

Top 5 tips to help you conceive
Ovulation guide
Top tips to boost your fertility

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….