EggDonationFriends held another webinar on 27th March 2018 at 8pm UK time. We again invited Kateryna Sokolovska, surrogacy program coordinator from Intersono IVF Clinic in Ukraine, to be our presenter and to talk about surrogacy in Ukraine. EggDonationFriends work with the best specialists in the field to provide you, the patients, the relevant knowledge on various topics connected with infertility treatments and solutions.
We focus on IVF treatment with donor eggs, however, we also go beyond that. We understand that for some infertile couples successful pregnancy with donor eggs may be medically unachievable and adoption is not an option that they are yet willing to consider. We understand that.
Questions & Answers – transcript
Q1: You cannot help same-sex couples, because their infertility is considered social infertility not medical infertility. Is that right? Do you have a way to offer surrogacy to same-sex couples?
We cannot help same-sex couples, unfortunately. One requirement of the legal side of the program is that the couple should be heterosexual. It is simply not legal in Ukraine.
Q2: Is a genetic link to the child mandatory? Is there an option to be a parent without a genetic link?
In the case of surrogacy a genetic link is required by law so at least one of the parents need to be linked, either the mother or father. If you want to be a parent with no genetic link, you can use adopted embryos, but you need to transfer to yourself.
Q3: Is there a possibility of becoming an intended parent when you are a widow or a single mother?
Unfortunately, this is not possible in Ukraine.
Q4: Is intensive care included in the package in the case of premature birth or other situation?
At the moment, it isn’t, but we are working with our insurance company to create a special package to cover the surrogate mother and the newborn child.
Q5: Is emergency hospitalization for the surrogate mother included in the price in every package?
There is a certain amount of money in every package that covers emergency hospitalization for the surrogate.
Q6: In the case of a confirmed severe illness of the child prior to birth, what is the procedure? Does this ever happen?
Yes, for sure, this can happen. The procedure is that, firstly, all the non-invasive tests are done in order to confirm such illness. With genetic abnormalities, for example Down syndrome, in order to confirm this, Prisca 1 and Prisca 2 tests are performed. If they are both positive, the doctor recommends performing an amniocentesis. This is an invasive test but it gives us a 99.9% percent certainty about the possibility of any illness. The parents can then decide whether they would like to proceed with the pregnancy or whether would like to terminate. If they decide to terminate, we can perform this up to week 22.
Q7: I’m just curious about what the prices look like.
This depends upon which program you are interested in. There are four programs, so I would need clarification about which program to answer the question.
Q8: How do the surrogate mothers feel when they give up the baby?
Our psychologists often report that the surrogates are thinking about their own children; they are involved in surrogacy mostly in order to improve the conditions for their own children. I have not attended a big number of deliveries but, when I do, right after delivery, they are mostly thinking and talking about their own children.
Q9: What type of translation services do you have so that foreigners can speak to their Ukrainian surrogate in English, or perhaps in their native language?
Depending on the language, of course, we offer a native language translator. All surrogates are Ukrainian, so there will be an interpreter/translator available to the intended parents. Most of our coordinators speak different languages: Polish, French, Spanish, Chinese, English, of course, and German. If there is the need for some less-widely spoken language, then we can employ a translator from an agency.
Q10: Is it possible to get to know the surrogate mother and her family better?
We offer the opportunity to meet with the surrogate if she agrees. Sometimes it also can happen that brings her husband and her children along.
Q11: Do you know if the nationality of the baby is that of the intended father or mother? I’m Australian and my husband is German. We would be using an egg donor and my husband’s sperm.
The nationality of the child is identified as the father’s, so if your husband is German we will approach the German embassy in order to get a passport for the baby.
Q12: What is the timeframe of the process from the starting point to the point that we are allowed to leave Ukraine with a newborn baby.
In order to start, we need a couple of months. Once you have signed the documents and paid for the first stage of the program, we will need around one month to prepare the surrogate, which will be, of course, confirmed by a doctor. Some time will be needed for you to consider whether you would like to work with her or not, or whether you would like to choose someone else. Then the medical side takes over, that is the synchronization of the cycles of the intended mother or egg donor: this also takes around one month. Nine months of pregnancy add up to around 11 months. Then, one to three months, depending upon the country of residence – different countries have different lengths of legal procedures after the child is born. Normally, none of our patients stay in Ukraine longer than one and a half to two months, but it depends, as you understand.
Q13: Which language are the contracts with the clinic written in, Ukrainian or Russian? Are we also provided with an English version?
All contracts are in a double version, Ukrainian and English.
Q14: What is the average delay in finding a surrogate mother and then to start the program?
We need around one month in order to provide the surrogate’s profile and then around another month in order to synchronize her cycle in order to start the program. So it’s about two months in total.
Q15: What would be a rough cost of doing a donor egg and husband’s sperm surrogacy?
Very roughly, this would be around 41 500 euros.
Q16: What about cases where the couples have different nationalities, for example, American or British? What does the procedure look like?
The main thing is which passport the father holds. The citizenship of the child is according to the citizenship of the father.
Q17: Is it possible to keep in touch with the surrogate mother after the birth?
If she agrees, of course, I see no problem.
Q18: Is it possible to pay extra for an NIPT-23?
I am guessing that it would be possible for the 23rd chromosome, but I’m not sure what the cost would be. I would need to clear that with the lab.
Q19: Is it possible to send sound samples to the surrogate mother during the pregnancy to let the baby hear some sounds from the intended parents for example voices or music?
This is actually a recommendation from our psychologists and is part of the surrogate’s work after week 18. Our psychologists say that, after week 18, the child starts to recognise sounds from the outside world, so we ask our parents to send some recordings of them reading fairytales, singing songs and so on. It’s a really good idea.
Q20: What is the price?
As I mentioned earlier, there are different packages so I would need to know which package. We can always get in touch directly with a detailed quote.
Q21: How long does it take for the passport to be issued?
It depends on the country really, because for Irish patients, for example, it takes around three weeks: for Americans it’s around three to four weeks and depends on a DNA test. So it really depends on the country, but if you can tell me where you are from I can better answer your question.
Q22: What is the cost of a surrogate mother with a donor egg and partner’s sperm?
It is 41 500 euros.
Q23: What’s the average financial compensation for surrogate mothers, in addition to the basic costs during the process?
The surrogates receive around 12 000 euro, around 25% of the 41 500 euro cost.
Q24: Can you work with surrogates in Kosovo? I know it isn’t close, but is it logistically and legally possible?
We cannot work with surrogates who are citizens of other countries, only with Ukrainian citizens.
Q25 If we provide frozen embryos, do you accept 5-day blastocyst embryos?
We would definitely accept them.
Q26: Who attests the parent-child link? Is it a court judgment or something simpler?
It depends upon the requirements of the embassy, but, normally it is would be DNA test.
Q27: Who does the matching process between the intended parents and the surrogate mother? The clinic or a specialised agency? What can the intended parent choose in the matching process?
Normally, the coordinators of the surrogacy department of InterSono offer intended parents the profiles of surrogate mothers and they choose whether or not they would like to work with any of these women. If none, then the coordinators offer other profiles.
Q28: Is it possible to have treatment and have a baby as a single mother? I need to have donor egg and sperm.
In this case, there is no possibility of joining a surrogacy program, but depending on your medical condition, there is an option of transferring an embryo to your body.
Q29: Is it possible that the intended parents are the very first people to touch the baby right after the birth?
Yes, this can be arranged.
Q30: How long would it take to have a German passport issued for a baby?
According to German legal processes, it takes between two and three weeks.
Q31: Do the surrogate mothers speak English?
Not generally, but some of them can speak English.
Q32: How much is the program if we provide a frozen embryo?
It’s 37 500 euros.
Q33: Besides your clinic, are there any other places where donor eggs can come from, for example, from another Ukrainian clinic, or other countries, including the US?
If you have an egg donor that you would like to order from some other agency or from another country, there is no problem.
Q34: Do you work with any courier companies?
Yes, we work with our own courier department, but, of course, you are free to use any courier company on market.
[In fact, we have already had a webinar about cryo-shipping and will be running a second on this topic soon. You can find all information, including transcripts of the first cryo-shipping webinar, on the eggdonationfriends website.]
Q35: Do you have a refund program?
I would need some clarification on this.
Q36: Regarding the previous question about egg donors from other countries: does that other country need to create the embryo or does the donor need to travel to your clinic?
Logistically, it would be more affordable to create embryos abroad and then ship them to the clinic than for the donor to travel to our clinic.
Q37: What are the guarantees? Are there any guarantees?
When you choose the guaranteed program we give you a 100% certainly that, no matter how many tries you need, you will have a have a healthy baby.
Q38: If you chose to have the embryos PGD tested, can these be frozen embryos?
If you mean performing PGD on frozen embryos, this is not recommended by our doctors. This is because the embryos need to be thawed, biopsied for the test and then frozen again to wait for the PGD results. It takes around two weeks to get the results. Double thawing and freezing is not the best, so it’s better to use fresh ones.
Q39: What is the price for the guaranteed program?
It is 53 500 euros.
Q40: On average, how many times do the intended parents need to travel to Lvov? One time to start, one or two times during the pregnancy, and one time at the end of the pregnancy: is that correct?
Basically, that’s right. There are three mandatory times that we need to see you, but more if you wish. The first is to sign in the documents, the second is for the IVF cycle, where the mother gives her oocytes or the father provides a semen sample, and the third time before the end of the pregnancy. You can also come at any other time you want.
Q41: Regarding a previous question: donor eggs from other countries can be frozen, so the donor wouldn’t have to travel? Is that correct?
Yes, Absolutely. Everything can be organized by a cryo-shipping company so that the donor does not have to travel.
Q42: To clarify a previous question: can any unused PGD tested embryos be frozen?
Yes, sure. They will be frozen if they aren’t be used in the program, then stored until you decide to use them, ship them to some other clinic or to eliminate them.
Q43: Is it possible to organize Skype meetings with the surrogate mother during the whole process?
Yes, this is our general practice.
Q44: What are the most trusted cryo-shipping companies that you know?
We strongly trust our own courier department.
Q45: What kind of personal information is available in each surrogate mother’s profile?
The profile includes her name, age, region of residence, marital status, information about the husband, information about her hobbies, information about her medical history – basically her delivery and gynecological history, the reasons she decided to become a surrogate and, of course photos. There is a list of people, apart from the coordinator and the psychologist, who can support her during the program, people to whom she will be able to speak openly and to share her feelings. This can be her husband, sister or mother, but not her children – they’re underage – but someone close. There is also information about whether she agrees to have two, or just the one embryo transferred.
Q46: Just to clarify: is the cost of a donor egg and partner sperm 4 100 euros or 41 000 euros?
If we are speaking about surrogacy program with the use of a donor egg and partner semen, it will be 41 000 euros.
Q47: Is there an age limit for intended parents?
According to Ministry of Health regulations, there is no age limit.
Q48: What tests does my husband need to do when going for an egg donor surrogacy programme? Can they be done in my country of residence?
We need a semen analysis test and also DNA fragmentation of the semen in order to understand the chances of success of the program. Before fertilization, your husband will need to do a critical infection test: for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C. These can be done any anywhere convenient for you, either at our clinic or perhaps at a different clinic. The sample has to be shipped to Ukraine frozen, or if the patient comes to our clinic, fresh.
Q49: You said that the oldest child born from surrogacy so far today is 11? Is it possible to know in which country he or she lives?
The child lives in Australia.
Q50: What if the surrogate mother never gets pregnant?
She basically has a number of tries, how many times she can try in the program, as set by the doctor. If she never gets pregnant then she cannot proceed in the problem.
Q51: What is the cost of donor egg and partner sperm program without surrogacy?
Basically, this means an IVF program. I’m not able to answer that here because I work only in surrogacy and I’m not really familiar with the prices of the IVF Department. I can ask my colleagues from the IVF Department to answer you directly by email.
Q52: What’s the cost of surrogacy using frozen embryos that are shipped from another country?
The cost would be 37 500 euro for the program, with the cost of shipment on top. Shipping costs depend on your country of residence.
Q53: During the whole program, is it the same person from InterSono who we will communicate with?
Yes. This is your personal coordinator, who will be with you from the start, right up to your going home.
Q54: Do you have reviews of your program online?
There are some online, on our website, in the reviews section. Some of them are about IVF treatment and some of them they’re about surrogacy treatment.
[You can also check InterSono’s clinic profile on eggdonationfriends.com. There are some patient reviews about IVF and surrogacy.]
Q55: Do you provide information about specialized lawyers in the country of the intended parents, France in our case?
Yes, we will be able to give the contact details of the lawyers who deal with French citizens and surrogacy.
Q56: Thanks for all the information. This seems like it’s a great option for people that cannot find surrogates in their own countries.
Thanks for your comment. If you are interested in the surrogacy programmes at InterSono, please go to our profile to contact the clinic directly.
Surrogacy – indications
Between the two options there lies surrogacy. Surrogacy is an infertility solution for infertile couples who are not able to have a child naturally or using assisted reproduction technologies like IVF with donor eggs. It works well for male same sex couples, women with medical conditions that make pregnancy impossible, for example Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, or women who suffer from severe pulmonary arterial hypertension or other cardiac disorders. These conditions are definite contraindications for pregnancy as in the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome where the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or even absent, even though the external genitalia look normal.
In case of Andreia Trigo, the diagnosis of infertility and MRKH syndrome led her to start her own organization to support infertile women all around the world. Read EggDonationFriends’ interview with Andreia and listen to Fertility Podcast with her where she talks about the condition.
The disorders described above can be indications for surrogacy. Unfortunately, there are more and more women who are not able to get pregnant and carry the pregnancy to term, and there are many countries in the world where surrogacy is banned, only altruistic surrogacy is legal or there are no regulations.
Legal surrogacy in Ukraine
Ukraine is one of the few countries where surrogacy is legal and regulated by law. Kateryna Sokolovska, the Medical Coordinator at Intersono IVF Clinic, was happy to tell you more during the webinar. She has already assisted hundreds of intended parents throughout their surrogacy journey. Kateryna also communicates with surrogate mothers throughout the entire surrogacy program – she is the best person to tell you what the process looks like from the inside, what your rights are as the intended parents and what documents are needed. We hope you have learnt more about surrogacy before you make the final decision to go ahead with the program.
Interested in the surrogate’s view? Read our interview with Rikki, a Canadian surrogate.