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Five young British women attempt to carry babies for other people.
1st April 2021 at 12:35AM
The number of children born through surrogacy in the UK has tripled in the last three years, and with demand for fertile young women higher than ever, this series takes a deep dive into the reality of choosing to have someone else’s baby, and what it’s like for those competing for surrogates.
In this episode we meet Caitlin and her boss Kate. Caitlin is 26, a single mum, and in a new relationship with her boyfriend Jordan. Kate and her partner Matt have lost three pregnancies, including one at 32 weeks. Kate has been told that medically she could carry her own baby, but after such difficult experiences, she doesn’t feel able to. After talking about surrogacy in the office, Caitlin offered to help Kate and Matt have a baby.
Kate and Cailtin live in Alderney, in the Channel Islands, and in this programme, they fly to Southampton to have Kate and Matt’s embryo put into Caitlin’s womb, in the hope it will work and Cailtin will get pregnant.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Emma is pregnant with the baby of a gay couple she met on a fertility matching app just a few months earlier. As her bump grows and she discovers the gender of the child, it begs the question will she become more attached, and will letting go of the baby be more difficult than she thought at first it would?
We also meet David, 40, who is a single gay man hoping to have a child through surrogacy. David makes embryos using anonymous donor eggs and joins a surrogacy organisation in the hopes of meeting a woman who will carry his child. But in most surrogacy agencies intended parents aren’t allowed to ask a woman to be their surrogate, and so David has to go to events and hope to be picked by someone. How will he navigate this, and will he successfully attract the right woman?
In this episode, Caitlin is now pregnant with her boss Kate’s baby, and they try to navigate the complex relationship between a surrogate and intended parent, whilst working together every day. Caitlin’s boyfriend, Jordan, tries to get used to having his girlfriend being pregnant with someone else’s child, and when cracks show in the relationship, Kate worries for the health of the baby.
Meanwhile, single man David and his surrogate Lauren end their relationship. He then meets first-time surrogate Faye and her husband Lee. Lee was astounded when he first heard that his wife wanted to be a surrogate, but will David’s determination and charm help ease Lee’s fears? Faye needs to have a check up to see if she can carry a child and takes an awkward and anxious David with her into the examination room.
We also meet Maddie, a 29-year-old single mum of two, who met married gay couple Alex and Richard at a surrogacy event. Unlike Caitlin, Maddie is a straight surrogate, meaning she is trying to get pregnant through home inseminations with Rich’s sperm. As the trio only met a few months ago, navigating this extremely intimate process could turn out to be physically and socially awkward.
In this episode, Maddie, Alex, and Rich agree to give themselves six months to try and get pregnant. As the deadline approaches, Maddie feels depressed, and the trio begin to have doubts about their future together as a surrogacy team. Will Maddie ever get pregnant and realise her dream of being that special person who helps her new friends start a family?
Meanwhile, single man David has his embryo transferred into his new surrogate Faye. David finds it hard to trust people, and Faye suffers from low self-esteem. In this programme we watch as they both navigate the emotional complexities within their relationship, whereby the intended parent has to completely trust the surrogate to safely carry their child, and then hand the baby over at the end.
We also meet Jemma, 33, who is a mum of three children with her partner Steven. They live in Birmingham. When Jemma gives birth to her first surrogate baby, she becomes “officially addicted to surrogacy” and immediately begins the search to find a new couple to carry a child for. “When I look at intended parents, I think ‘I know what I can give you, what are you going to give me?’” says Jemma. It’s not long before she sets her sights on a couple, she thinks has a lot to offer her, but will they feel the same?
Jane Fisher, is the Chief Executive of the UK charity Antenatal Results (ARC), who provides unbiased information and support to women and couples who are going through antenatal screening and dealing with its consequences. In this podcast, Jane draws upon this experience in relation to the context of surrogacy.Listen now ❯Prenatal diagnosis and surrogacy podcast
Copyright: Roberto Scandola
Surrogacy around the world
Which country allows surrogates to legally accept payment for surrogacy from foreigners? Which European country only permits those in a heterosexual partnership or a single female to be intended parents? Professor Lesley Hoggart and Dr Sarah Earle, reveal some of the different rules in place for surrogacy around the world.Take part now ❯Surrogacy around the world
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The academics at The Open University are some of the leading experts in their field, who apply their passion for their subject to teaching, research and public engagement.
The OU academics supporting this series have been chosen for their ability to advise on the programme’s subject area.
Professor Lesley Hoggart, Professor of Social Policy Research
Lesley is the Director of Research for the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University.
Lesley's research interests are focused on reproductive health; abortion policy and politics; teenage pregnancy and motherhood; and sexual health. Her recent publications include: 2017, Hoggart, L. ‘Internalised abortion stigma: young women’s strategies of resistance and rejection’, Feminism and Psychology; 2016, Hoggart, L. ‘Collaboration or collusion? Involving research users in applied social research’, Women’s Studies International Forum; 2015, Hoggart, L. and Newton, V.
Dr Sarah Earle, Director, Priority Research Area in Health and Wellbeing
Sarah is the Director of The Open University’s interdisciplinary Priority Research Area in Health and Wellbeing and a member of the Sexuality and Reproduction Special Interest Group.
Sarah is a medical sociologist with a long-standing interest in reproductive and sexual health. This began with the completion of my doctoral thesis in 1998, which focused on women’s embodiment in pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. Her interest in women’s embodiment and reproductive agency has continued and more recently she led empirical research projects focusing on pre-conception care for women with pre-existing type I and type II diabetes (funded by the NIHR).