Having started in the field of IVF and infertility nearly 20 years ago, we are industry veterans who saw a huge gap in the surrogacy experience. After meeting couple after couple for whom assisted reproduction of any kind was cost prohibitive, or intended parents who were all but financially tapped out due to failed IVF cycles or adoptions gone awry, we realized there was an enormous need for affordable surrogacy options.
After extensive research, endless questions, and field trips to the Ukraine, we partnered with only the doctors and facilitators we felt were completely aligned with the same standards of care intended parents would find in the U.S. Throughout our entire process, we took the approach that we would only provide this service if we felt we could provide the surrogacy experience we would want for ourselves on every level: medically, philosophically, and ethically. We felt so strongly about this that we made it part of our mission statement.
So many intended parents are (understandably) unaware of how many pitfalls and opportunists there are in the surrogacy, especially when it comes to engaging in a surrogacy abroad. It’s our goal to not only advocate for our clients, but to clear the snakes out of the grass so they can walk through the surrogacy process unharmed.
WHY NOT CONSIDER COUNTRIES OTHER THAN UKRAINE FOR SURROGACY?
Surrogacy abroad is not new. In the past, countries such as Thailand and India were a hot bed for couples around the globe to find affordable options. Although neither of these countries are still open to foreigners, we never fully embraced the idea of recommending those programs for a variety of reasons. We understood the desperation intended parents often felt and the risks they were willing to take to make their dreams of having a family come true. As industry veterans, we are always considering ways to assist intended parents and in finding the affordable and ethical options, but until recently we have rejected other countries’ programs as options mostly due to the lack of government regulation, quality of care and overall instability. In fact, we often heard horror stories from intended parents that confirmed our initial instincts.
THE UKRAINE PROGRAM MET OUR STANDARDS OF CARE
Although surrogacy in countries other than the U.S. has been around for a while, it wasn’t until about 2014 that we began hearing stories about how surrogacy was flourishing in Ukraine. More and more we started hearing about how our friends and colleagues in Europe and Israel were going there to provide affordable surrogacy options for clients who simply couldn’t afford to go the surrogacy route otherwise.
Having investigated surrogacy in other countries, when the idea of creating a surrogacy program in Ukraine first came up, we were weary. While we heard great things about programs in Ukraine, we decided there was only one way we would even entertain the idea and that was to go there and see the clinics and the labs, meet the doctors, and talk to surrogates first hand. With that in mind, we flew to Ukraine (completely on our own dime) and were amazed by what we saw.
The IVF labs we visited were immaculate, modern, and amazingly efficient. New equipment and IVF protocols were consistent with those found in the U.S. and very high standards of care were found everywhere we went. The clinics followed and adhered to the recommendations of the ESHRE (European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology) but the ASRM (American Society of Reproductive Medicine) as well.
CRITERIA FOR SURROGATES IN UKRAINE
One of our greatest concerns about pursuing surrogacy in Ukraine was making sure the surrogates we worked with met the exact same requirements as surrogates in the U.S. Whether that pertained to BMI, age, or even psychological history, the same criteria we use in the U.S. had to be met. Similarly, we wanted to make sure surrogates in Ukraine received the exact same level of care as surrogates in the U.S.— not only medically but ethically. We wanted to make sure that they were well educated, well represented legally, and well treated by the IVF professionals in Ukraine. In a nutshell, we wanted to make sure they were not only vetted, but were well taken care of.
To this end, we met not only with their doctors and attorneys, but with surrogates themselves and found that not only do surrogates in Ukraine have to meet the same rigid physical and psychological standards as surrogates in the U.S., but their surrogacy journey is almost indistinguishable from that of a surrogate here.
Here are just a few points of interest about surrogates in Ukraine:
- Compensation – A first-time Ukrainian surrogates receive an average of $16,000 total compensation for their first surrogacy. While the dollar value of this compensation is technically less than what a surrogate would make in the U.S., it’s roughly six times an average yearly salary in Ukraine (The average yearly salary is $3,000).
- Education – Although there are many U.S. surrogates with college and advanced degrees, generally speaking the majority of surrogates in the U.S. have either a high school education or have not yet completed college. In Ukraine, which is the 4th highest educated country in the world, those stats are essentially reversed with most surrogates holding degrees and advanced degrees.
- Health – Surrogates in Ukraine are held to the same stringent health standards as those in the United States. In addition to having a BMI below 30, surrogates must be between 18 and 36 years of age with good pregnancy and general health histories.
- Housing – Not only do surrogates in Ukraine have the same living standards as surrogates in the U.S., but they are often offered special housing during their surrogacy. And yes, we did ask to see it and it’s lovely!
- Support – In addition to the psychological, agency, and family support surrogates in Ukraine receive, they also have the benefit of an on-call social worker who provides weekly visits and will help with everything from running errands to making sure she has a stocked refrigerator.
CLEAR AND EASY LEGAL PROCESS
In addition to a clean legal process to facilitate the surrogacy, we found the process to take the newborn out of Ukraine equally straightforward. Depending on what country the intended parents are from, it is generally a two-to-six-week process to get the paperwork necessary to take the baby out of Ukraine and back to a home country. For U.S. citizens, the average wait time is about two and a half weeks.
Our attorney in Ukraine will make all the arrangements and take care of all the paperwork necessary for you to take your baby back to the States. This will include obtaining a passport, arranging a DNA test, and supplying other documents required by the U.S. government.