Do Surrogates Get Paid in Australia?

Surrogacy is altruistic in Australia. This means that surrogates are not paid to carry a baby, but the intended parents must cover her out of pocket surrogacy-related expenses. This is different from commercial surrogacy, where surrogates receive a fee for carrying a baby for someone else. Commercial surrogacy is legal in some countries, but illegal across Australia.

The number one question that every surrogate is asked is “how much do you get paid?” And while we expect the question, and can even understand why someone may ask, the question itself can hurt, and undermines the altruism of what we are doing. Surrogates are not paid in Australia, and the suggestion that we are being paid is upsetting. And then “if you’re not being paid, why would you do it?” Well, maybe it’s a good question. I mean, really, why would anyone want to go through pregnancy and childbirth, for nothing?

But if you ask an Australian surrogate why she would carry and birth a baby for no payment – and no baby, the majority of us will be delighted to share with you that surrogacy has been an amazing and wonderful experience that we would do all over again, in a heartbeat. For me, surrogacy was hands-down one of the very best things I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t trade that for a million dollars.

You might be wondering if the surrogate will ask for money.

But let me be really clear: surrogates are not paid in Australia.

Oh yeah, I hear you say, “but they’re probably being paid under the table.” For a long time I would simply shrug my shoulders if someone said that to me. I wasn’t paid as a surrogate, and wondered if I was being naive to think that my surrogate sisters were also not receiving any money. But I’ve spent time with over a hundred surrogates and many of them are my friends. They’re genuine, courageous and generous women. We are also educated, have our own careers, and our own families, interests and priorities. In short: we don’t need to be paid to carry a baby for someone else.

You don’t have to believe me. And that’s ok – this is not a reflection on whether I was paid to carry a baby. The fact is, altruistic surrogacy is all about the relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate and her family. Surrogates don’t want to be paid, precisely because we are doing it for the experience, the relationship with our intended parents, and the joy we will feel when we hand over a baby to the new parents. Nothing can describe that feeling, and there is nothing else like it.  The best gifts we receive are are the thank yous, and the lifelong joy of seeing the baby with their parents, and the handwritten cards and homemade gifts, which don’t have any monetary value.

While surrogates might not be paid to carry a baby, they are entitled to have their expenses covered – medical and surrogacy and pregnancy-related expenses. You can read more about the expected costs of altruistic surrogacy in Australia. Surrogates might not be paid – but surrogacy is not free.

The truth is that most surrogates in Australia are lucky to break-even at the end of their surrogacy journey. Some surrogates end up out-of-pocket. The surrogacy laws are very strict, and surrogates cannot receive any payment or fee above reimbursement for their expenses.

Another reason why surrogates are out of pocket is because we are, generally speaking, very proud. We don’t like asking for help, and we certainly don’t like asking for money. Have you ever had to ask another couple to help pay your bills? Money conversations are difficult in many households, let alone with other people. Many surrogates report being out of pocket because they didn’t like asking their intended parents to cover small costs like hospital parking, petrol, pregnancy vitamins, maternity wear, and even days off work. Surrogates don’t want to add any extra burden to their intended parents, who are often already spending so much money on IVF costs, counsellors and lawyers. So, we just bear the cost ourselves. And you know what? Often, it’s easier to bear the cost and forget about it, than it is to raise it with our intended parents and ask for money.

Now, none of that is the fault of the intended parents. It is, however, their responsibility to work through this with their surrogate and her partner, recognise her pride and not wanting to make her uncomfortable, and find ways to make sure she is not out of pocket. Be proactive and find ways to make sure you cover the expenses.

If you are an intended parent and you believe that there’s some sort of ‘catch’ to altruistic surrogacy whereby the surrogates are all receiving under-the-table payments, you may like to read more about the motivations of surrogates, and the relationships we have with our intended parents. There are numerous episodes of the Surrogacy Podcast that tell these stories. And remember, if you don’t trust a woman to carry your baby without asking for money, then perhaps you shouldn’t trust her to carry your baby at all.

If you are new to surrogacy, you can read about how to find a surrogate, or how to become a surrogate yourself (and get a free initial consult). You can also download the free Surrogacy Handbook which explains the processes and options.

You can also listen to the Surrogacy Podcast to find out more from other intended parents and surrogates.

Sarah has written a comprehensive surrogacy guide, More Than Just a Baby: A Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents and Surrogates, which you can purchase in digital or hard copy.

You can also book in for a consult with me below, and check out the legal services I provide.

Hi! I’m Sarah Jefford (she/her). I’m a family creation lawyer, practising in surrogacy and donor conception arrangements. I’m an IVF Mum, an egg donor and a traditional surrogate, and I delivered a baby for her Dads in 2018.

I advocate for positive, best practice surrogacy arrangements within Australia, and provide support and education to help intended parents make informed decisions when pursuing overseas surrogacy.

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