• Though the laws governing surrogacy are not well established in Kenya, it is still used as a fertility treatment
• The laws were first put in place in 2008
Surrogacy refers to an arrangement supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy to term on behalf of another couple who will be the child's parents after birth.
There are many reasons a couple may opt to get a surrogate, such as when the woman is infertile.
People may also opt for surrogacy as a pathway to parenthood because of medical issues, such as uterine abnormalities, recurrent miscarriages or serious health concerns that could pose a risk to the mother or the baby.
The reasons to pursue surrogacy may vary among individuals.
But one needs to gather as much information as possible about this arrangement before diving into it.
Gynaecologist Wasike Wamalwa said one of the most important considerations a couple has to look into is what the law says about such an arrangement.
It is advisale to consult with an experienced reproductive attorney who specialises in surrogacy to ensure that you understand the legal aspects, rights and responsibilities involved.
Wamalwa said it is important to understand the law to avoid confusion on who is the legal mother of the child once they are born.
Usually, the surrogate who gave birth to the child remains the legal mother until steps are taken to legally transfer her parental rights to someone else.
Though the laws governing surrogacy are not well established in Kenya, it is still used as a fertility treatment.
With no established laws on surrogacy, Kenya applies common laws as it is part of the Common Wealth.
Legally, a woman can be a surrogate mother if she agreed to do so, and would receive money for every child she bears for another person.
Wamalwa said couples should also beware of the different types of surrogacy available to them.
"We have two types of surrogacy. One is traditional surrogacy, then we have gestational surrogacy," he said.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate's own eggs are used, making her the genetic mother of the child, while in gestational surrogacy, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is used, where the embryo is created using the intended parents' genetic material and then implanted into the surrogate's uterus.
He said it is important to understand the medical procedures involved, potential risks and success rates associated with IVF.
Wamalwa said the couple can choose their surrogate from close friends, family or get one from a surrogacy agency.
He said once the surrogate is chosen, she is taken through medical evaluations and psychological assessment to ensure she is ready both physically and emotionally to carry the baby to term.
"We test the surrogate mother for HIV, Hepatitis B and C," he said.
Additionally, Wamalwa said such an arrangement can be very costly as it involves medical expenses, legal fees, compensation for the surrogate for being kind enough to carry the baby, and other associated costs.
"Emotional support is also very key as the process can be emotionally complex for all parties involved," he said.
The gynaecologist said the arrangement does not end when the surrogate finally gives birth.
"There is still a post-birth process. The couple should be prepared for the legal steps required, such as obtaining legal parental rights and birth certificates," he said.
"Surrogacy is a complex and highly personal journey. Make informed decisions that align with your personal circumstances."