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An altruistic act of surrogacy!
Last updated: 28 January 2014 0720 GMT
lineCarol O'Reilly from Gloucester is a surrogate mother and co-founder of Surrogacy UK.

She explained to BBC Gloucestershire what it means to be a surrogate.
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Fact File

In the UK, it is thought at least one baby a week is born to a surrogate mother and a number of high-profile cases prompted the government to order an independent review of the law in June 1997.

Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but no money can be paid to the surrogate mother other than "reasonable expenses".

However, until now, there has been no strict definition as to what constitutes "reasonable expenses", so it has been up to those involved to reach a financial agreement.

Present arrangements suggest up to £10,000 to be paid to a surrogate mother, ostensibly to pay for her outgoings and recompense her for loss of earnings because of the pregnancy.

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Since 1994, Carol O'Reilly from Newent in Gloucester, has had three children for childless couples, making her an experienced surrogate mother.

In May she will be having her fourth child for Pip and Kev Redmarley, giving them a second child and a genetic sibling to their first daughter kitty.

Carol said, "I've been a surrogate three times now and first became interested after seeing a programme about surrogacy called Heart of the Matter.

"The programme started me thinking and at that time my sister had been trying for five years to have a baby, but never got pregnant. I saw the anguish she was going through and felt people like me could help people like her."

Pleasant surprise!

Thanks to successful IVF treatment Carol didn't need to help her sister have a child but she did go on to help another childless couple.

quoteI look at the children like nieces and nephews and I love them. Not as much as I love my own children because I don't have the same bond, but I love them dearly. quote
Carol O'Reilly

She explained, "I didn't go on to help my sister because she went on to IVF treatment and got pregnant, and she now has three children of her own.

"I went on to have a child for a couple in Scotland, then another child in Scotland and then a child for somebody in Gloucestershire."

The facts

There are two types of surrogacy, traditional and host surrogacy.

Traditional is where the baby is conceived through artificial insemination and is genetically related to the surrogate and the intended father.

Host surrogacy is where the baby is conceived through in vitro fertilization. The baby is created from the intended father's sperm and the intended mother's egg in vitro and then transferred into the host surrogate.

The surrogate is in not genetically related to the babyl. She just carries the baby for nine months because the intended mother is unable to carry a pregnancy.

IVF treatment
IVF - making babies in a lab!

According to Carol, "Traditional or straight surrogacy is what I've done. I check for ovulation and when it's my ovulation period I tell the intended father. He comes to my house and either produces a sperm sample or brings one with him and I then insert it into myself. There is no sexual contact whatsoever!

"We then have to wait two weeks to see if it's taken. The statistics are the same for traditional surrogacy as they are if you are trying to have a baby naturally."

Three times a baby!

Carol will try three times to get pregnant for an intended couple and explained, "I seem to be quite fertile so I've always got pregnant."

She has also stayed in contact with all three couples that she has been a surrogate for.

quoteThe actual birth is the best part of the surrogacy process. You have been striving for this actual moment and it's the most exciting, emotional time. You don't want the baby, you haven't bonded with the baby but you do have a bond with the intended parents.quote
Carol O'Reilly

"It's almost like an extended family and I'm like an aunty figure. I look at the children like nieces and nephews and I love them. Not as much as I love my own children because I don't have the same bond, but I love them dearly."

But what, according to Carol, is the the best thing about being a surrogate?

"The actual birth is the best part of the surrogacy process. You have been striving for this actual moment and it's the most exciting, emotional time. You don't want the baby, you haven't bonded with the baby but you do have a bond with the intended parents.

"So when the baby is actually born, watching the baby be handed to them, or in the last case the intended mother actually delivered her, watching them standing with their child and becoming a family is a really good feeling, it's the ultimate, it's absolutely wonderful and you couldn't top it.

"Basically at the end of the day you are giving up an egg and incubating it and nobody every scorns egg donors. Surrogacy is just one step further and it's all about helping other people."

Surrogacy online

Following her experience as a surrogate Carol co-founded Surrogacy UK with her friend Elizabeth Stringer to provide a wealth of knowledge on all aspects of surrogacy.

"Surrogacy UK was started in October 2002 because myself and Elizabeth decided that after being in the surrogacy business for a long time there wasn't enough support or information out there.

"So we decided we could make a good job of it and we have. We are a resource for anybody in the UK who can come to us for information."

Expenses

Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but no money can be paid to the surrogate mother other than "reasonable expenses".

Carol explained, "Different costs are incurred by different types of surrocay depending on how you do it.

quoteDifferent costs are incurred by different types of surrocay depending on how you do it.quote
Carol O'Reilly

"If you're doing IVF you've got all hospital costs. If you join an organisation you've got a nominal fee to pay. There is no definitive fee of how much a surrogate costs because everyone's circumstances are different.

"The surrogate has to take possibly six months off work, eat better, to have travel costs, to have maternity clothes, childcare costs for any children the surrogate, if she's unwell then maybe for a cleaner, so things do add up and costs can run into the thousands.

"At the end of the day the surrogate doesn't gain anything from it financially they just get their expenses paid. It is illegal to be paid for anything else!

The future

Carol is now planning on doing a surrogacy for her previous couple, who had a baby girl called Kitty in August 2002 and would now like a sibling.

"The couple have asked if I will give them a full biological sibling and we've agreed to start in May.

"This is the first time I have given a couple a sibling as before it has always been for childless couples. But this is nice because we have a really good friendship and get on really well with the intended parents."

Online diary

Carol will be keeping an online diary of her surrogacy pregnacy so watch this space for further details.

Article by Nat Hall

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