The demand for embryos to be sent to New Zealand from abroad to bear children has increased due to Covid-19. Photo / 123rf
Demand for embryos, eggs and sperm to be shipped to New Zealand has increased as Kiwis are no longer able to travel for fertility treatment abroad due to Covid-19.
But getting valuable cargo into the countryside in an attempt to create babies has become much more difficult.
Finding surrogate mothers or egg or sperm donors in New Zealand can be difficult, partly because paying them is illegal here. Most of the surrogate is someone parents know, but there is an increasing trend of people turning to the internet to find someone.
Prior to Covid, many expectant parents went to specialized clinics abroad where commercial surrogacy was legal and where embryo transfers would take place.
Dr Mary Birdsall, group director of Fertility Associates, said parents should rethink the process.
“We are seeing more and more demand from all kinds of different fertility treatments involving offshore clinics. So, people who want to send eggs, sperm, embryos around the world … and to New Zealand. I think Covid has made it a very nice landscape. more challenging. “
Specialized companies that usually have staff accompanying goods on board cannot provide that service, which creates a risk.
“The options for transferring embryos around the world are becoming much more limited and more expensive.
“What used to happen before Covid was you basically paid a courier to personally carry your embryos in a small portable freezing device. You can’t do that right now, unless they’re ready for quarantine.”
It is also likely that the operator will not receive an exemption from the New Zealand Government from being allowed into the country.
Some companies do offer unaccompanied transport services, Birdsall said, but he warns: “When they are so valuable, it only adds to the element of risk.”
Fertility Associates makes 80 percent of surrogate applications to the New Zealand Assisted Reproductive Technology Ethics Committee, the body that considers and approves them for fertility clinics.
An Ecart spokesperson said they were still counting the number of substitutes approved in 2020 but there were 15 in the year to June 2016 and 14 in the year to June 2019.
Fertility Associates said the company submitted 25 applications to Ecart for surrogacy last year. All are approved, and one is suspended.
Attorney Margaret Casey QC, who has acted for targeted parents involving the birth of more than 100 children born via surrogacy in recent years, at home and abroad, said the US had been popular with Kiwis for finding surrogacy and for transfers. embryo. Most of the states were called “surrogate friend states.”
“This means that it is regulated in that state, usually resulting in the parent in question having the first US birth certificate. There are still a few states in the US that transfer parents by adoption. Canada, Ukraine, and Georgia are also countries where People parents in New Zealand are looking for. If New Zealanders have cultural links with a country where surrogacy is approved, I also look at cases of surrogacy in that country. For example, South Africa, Namibia and Vietnam. follow so that surrogacy occurs legally. “
Many countries do not recognize surrogate mothers. In some countries, such as New Zealand, parents must adopt a child born through a surrogate mother, even if it is their biological child.
But she said it was difficult to see trends in surrogacy over the past year because of Covid.
“Obviously it is difficult to travel to other countries to make embryos with your genetic material during this time of Covid. It is difficult for surrogate mothers to go to the clinic for transfer due to internal travel restrictions and it is a very stressful time trying to manage a pregnancy remotely. “
Producing birth certificates and passports in countries that have been covered by Covid is also “very stressful”.
“The irony is because Covid surrogacy is more attractive in some overseas countries simply because the pace of life is slowing down and it might be a good time to get pregnant if that is something you are considering.”
She is calling for changes around reimbursement of a woman who agrees to act as reimbursement for pregnancy expenses.
“It doesn’t commercialize the pregnancy – it just prevents a person from going backwards because of the contribution. It’s too difficult to meet these costs under the current rules and that has to change.”