Finding accurate, unbiased information about surrogacy in the Nordics remains a challenge.
Fortunately, the region will soon host an important surrogacy education conference, bringing together parents via surrogacy, surrogacy lawyers, and other professionals from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US, Ukraine, Canada and Greece.
Hosted by the non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy, the August 12th event in Stockholm will allow attendees to share their experience and expertise, and will be particularly useful to local infertility organisations.
Surrogacy and the Nordics
Despite an absence of enabling laws, citizens from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark have been creating families via surrogacy for many years.
Research conducted by Families Through Surrogacy in 2015 showed that, proportionate to population size, Norway was the third largest user of surrogacy globally (after Australia and Israel). Sweden was the sixth largest user.
An estimated 800 Norwegians and Swedes created families via surrogacy in the years 2012 – 2014. Parents from Denmark and Finland were also represented in smaller numbers.
However, laws regarding surrogacy remain ambiguous in both Sweden and Finland.
Sweden's National Council on Medical Ethics has said altruistic surrogacy should be permitted. However, a Swedish task force recommended last year that no surrogacy should be allowed in Sweden at all, and that Swedes should be blocked from international surrogacy.
That being said, most Swedish political parties have taken a stand against this, so while a parliamentary vote is planned, a ban seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, Finland allowed limited domestic surrogacy where the surrogate was a close friend until 2007. While the practice has since been banned, Finnish parliamentarians are once again supportive of opening access to surrogacy domestically.
With surrogacy unavailable domestically, the US — as well as more cost effective destinations such as India, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal — were until recently popular destinations for Nordic parents.
But in the last few years, developing country options — which operated in the absence of legal protections — have closed to foreigners.
IVF versus surrogacy
Undeterred, prospective parents from the Nordics have instead been turning to countries with protective legal frameworks for surrogacy such as Ukraine, Georgia, Canada and some US states.
In Greece in March this year I met an infertile Norwegian couple who had recently become proud parents of newborn twins. If it hadn't been for surrogacy, that couple would never have experienced such joy.
Tanya is another parent who will be sharing her experience of surrogacy at the upcoming conference in Stockholm.
Her journey began in 2010 in New York City, when with her husband, she engaged in standard IVF. Able to create only two embryos, the transfer was unsuccessful.
During her second IVF cycle, Tanya was rushed into emergency surgery due to a medical complication, and consequently, was told to hold off on IVF for the immediate future.
By 2013 Tanya and her husband had moved to Stockholm for a work-related opportunity. She had been cleared by the doctors and was determined to try IVF again with donor eggs, however, at 44, she had surpassed the cut-off age and so Swedish clinics did not accept her.
Instead they tried various clinics in Finland and Latvia, but another 18 months passed with no success. Following further medical complications, doctors advised Tanya that carrying a child herself was simply too high-risk.
So, the couple turned to surrogacy.
Friends recommended a Georgian clinic where they had had success. Tanya and her partner travelled to Tbilisi for egg retrieval and transfer, and the first transfer was initially successful. However by week five, they had lost the foetus.
They went ahead with two further transfers but again, these failed. Though devastated, Tanya and her husband refused to give up.
Despite the higher costs, they turned to surrogacy in the US. Ultimately an agency in the state of Oregon, Surro Connections, helped them decide on a clinic.
Now matched with a surrogate, Tanya expects to become a parent very soon.
So what about you? Do you want to start a family – and could surrogacy be right for you? Click here for more information on surrogacy.
Sam Everingham is the parent of two daughters born through international surrogacy and the Founder of Families Through Surrogacy, a consumer-based non-profit organisation focused on bringing together surrogates, intended parents and families.