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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
Surrogate couples 'make better parents'
Women who use surrogate mothers to have children tend to become very loving and doting parents, research suggests.

There have been concerns about the impact of surrogacy arrangements on the well-being of children and families.


The findings of this study are generally reassuring with respect to relationships with surrogate mothers

Fiona MacCallum
But the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Vienna heard that these fears seem to be largely unfounded.

The first study of its kind into surrogacy found that mothers who had relied on another women to carry their child tended to show more warmth towards their babies than mothers whose child was conceived naturally.

Both the mother and father tended to have better parenting skills than parents in non-surrogate families.

And the babies themselves show no differences in their temperament and behaviour when compared with non-surrogate babies.

Nor do there seem to be problems when the surrogate mothers hand over the babies to the mothers who have commissioned the surrogacy.

The research was carried out by a team from the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University, London.

Controversial procedure

They studied 43 families with a child born through surrogacy arrangements, and compared them with 51 families with a child conceived through IVF with donated eggs, and 86 families with a naturally conceived child.

This first phase of the study looked at families when the children were aged between nine and 12 months.

There are two types of surrogacy:

  • partial (or straight) surrogacy where the surrogate mother and the commissioning father are the genetic parents of the child and conception is through artificial insemination
  • full (or host) surrogacy where the commissioning mother and father are the genetic parents and conception is achieved through IVF

Of the 43 surrogate families in the study, nearly two-fifths involved full surrogacy and just over three-fifths involved partial surrogacy.

Two-thirds of the surrogate mothers were unknown to the commissioning couple prior to the surrogacy arrangement, while the remaining third of surrogate mothers were either a sister or a friend of the commissioning mother. This was closely comparable to the egg donor families.

The researchers questioned the commissioning mothers about the surrogate's reaction to handing over the child, about their own relationship with the surrogate following the birth and about their attitudes towards the surrogate's involvement in the child's life.

False assumptions

Researcher Fiona MacCallum said: "It is often assumed that surrogate mothers will have difficulties handing the child over following the birth.


These children were still in infancy and it remains to be seen how these families will change as the children grow up

Fiona MacCallum
"In fact, we found only one instance of the surrogate having slight doubts at this time, with all other mothers reporting no problems.

"Since the birth of the child, the majority of the families had kept in touch with the surrogate to some extent and 70% saw her at least once every couple of months.

"Ninety per cent of commissioning mothers reported that they still had a very good relationship with the surrogate, and no mothers described any major conflict or hostility between the commissioning couple and the surrogate."

The researchers also found that surrogacy mothers were much more likely to tell friends and family about the arrangement than were women who opted for IVF egg donation.

All the surrogacy mothers intended to tell their children about their conception, but only 57% of the egg donor mothers said they definitely planned to tell their children.

Ms MacCallum said: "The findings of this study are generally reassuring with respect to relationships with surrogate mothers, quality of parenting and the temperament of the child.

"There is no evidence so far to support the concerns that have been voiced about the practice of surrogacy.

"However, these children were still in infancy and it remains to be seen how these families will change as the children grow up."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"Critics fear problems may develop later"
Reports from the 2002 Eshre conference in Vienna

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30 Nov 00 | Health
14 Oct 98 | Health
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