As Paris Hilton welcomes baby via surrogate, how surrogacy works in the UK (and what it costs)

Stock picture of Paris Hilton who has recently announced she has welcomed her first child via surrogacy. (Getty Images)
Paris Hilton has welcomed her first child via surrogacy. (Getty Images)

Paris Hilton has announced the birth of her first child via surrogacy.

The 41-year-old shared a sweet picture of a baby gripping a thumb to her Instagram on Tuesday.

“You are already loved beyond words,” she wrote in a brief caption.

Hilton, granddaughter of Hilton Hotels’ founder Conrad Hilton, has been married to her partner Carter Reum since 2021.

US media outlet People reported that the couple had welcomed the child, a son, via surrogate.

"It's always been my dream to be a mother and I'm so happy that Carter and I found each other," Hilton told the publication.

"We are so excited to start our family together and our hearts are exploding with love for our baby boy."

Read more: Childminder becomes a surrogate and gives birth to four babies for other families

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Celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen and Miranda Kerr congratulated the couple in the comments of the post.

“So happy for you guys!” Kardashian wrote, with Teigen adding: “A BABY!!!!! Congratulations so happy for you both!!”

Paris Hilton certainly isn’t the only celebrity to turn to surrogacy in their pursuit of parenthood.

Kim Kardashian also used surrogacy to expand her family due to her struggle with preeclampsia and placenta accreta during both her first two previous pregnancies. The couple went on to have daughter Chicago and son Psalm via a surrogate with Kardashian describing the process it as "the best experience".

Sarah Jessica Parker had twins via a surrogate in 2009, conceived with her frozen eggs and her husband’s sperm.

Elton John and his husband David Furnish also have two sons via a surrogate and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo welcomed twins last year via a surrogate.

It’s not just celebrities for whom surrogacy is becoming an option. Statistics reveal that the number of parents having a baby using a surrogate in England and Wales has almost quadrupled in the 12 years leading up to when figures were released in 2020.

Parental orders, which transfer legal parentage from the surrogate, rose from 117 in 2011 to 413 in 2020.

The report, by the University of Kent and My Surrogacy Journey, a non-profit organisation which supports surrogates and intended parents, also revealed two-thirds of applicants are now mixed-sex couples often in their 30s or 40s.

Read more: Rebel Wilson gives baby born by surrogate the middle name Elizabeth 'after the late Queen'

Stock picture of Paris Hilton and Carter Reum. (Getty Images)
Paris Hilton and Carter Reum have become parents for the first time. (Getty Images)

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when a woman carries a pregnancy for another couple or individual. In most cases it is because someone cannot carry a pregnancy themselves for health reasons or because they are men in a same-sex relationship.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), there are two types of surrogacy:

Full surrogacy (also known as host or gestational surrogacy) is when the eggs of the intended mother or a donor are used and there is therefore no genetic connection between the baby and the surrogate.

Partial surrogacy (also known as straight or traditional surrogacy) involves the surrogate’s egg being fertilised with the sperm of the intended father. If you go down this route, we recommend you have treatment at a licensed UK fertility clinic.

How much does surrogacy cost in the UK?

You’re not allowed to pay a surrogate in the UK. However, you are responsible for reimbursing any reasonable expenses that the surrogate incurs such as maternity clothes, travel expenses and loss of earnings.

According to Surrogacy UK, intended parents (IPs) should budget approximately £20k for straight surrogacy and £30k for host surrogacy – this includes all expenses for the surrogate, insurance, wills. and clinic costs (for the host). A surrogate's expenses can be from anywhere between £7k and £15k, depending on her personal circumstances, e.g. loss of earnings, rate of childcare, number of children, distance from IPs etc.

There may be unforeseen circumstances such as bed rest, or medical issues that might mean a surrogates expense increase during pregnancy. If a surrogate needs to increase her expenses by over £1k during the pregnancy, then it is referred to the Board of Trustees so that it can be approved.

Read more: Becoming a surrogate mother in the UK: ‘You’re not giving them away, you’re giving them back’

The number of couples turning to surrogacy in the UK is on the rise. (Getty Images)
The number of couples turning to surrogacy in the UK is on the rise. (Getty Images)

What is the law surrounding surrogacy in the UK?

While surrogacy is legal in the UK, if you make a surrogacy agreement it cannot be enforced by the law.

Gov.uk explains that if you use a surrogate, they will be the child’s legal parent at birth.

If the surrogate is married or in a civil partnership, their spouse or civil partner will be the child’s second parent at birth, unless they did not give their permission.

However, legal parenthood can be transferred by parental order or adoption after the child is born. Once you have a parental order for the baby, the surrogate will have no further rights or obligations to the child.

The law previously only allowed two people to apply for a parental order, however, it has recently been changed and it is now possible for one person to apply for a parental order if you are a biological parent of the child (i.e. your eggs or sperm were used to create the baby).

If there is disagreement about who the child’s legal parents should be, the courts will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

This is a complicated area so you should talk to your clinic early on about nominating a second legal parent so they can support you through the process.

What is a surrogacy agreement?

The intended parents and surrogate can record how they want the arrangement to work in a surrogacy agreement.

It is important to note, however, that surrogacy agreements are not enforceable by UK law, even if you have a signed document with your surrogate and have paid their expenses.

What are the rules regarding birth when it comes to surrogacy?

Surrogacy laws and arrangements vary between countries and can be considerably complex.

“For most couples who prefer the absolute certainty and protection afforded by the law, they travel abroad to countries such as the US or Canada for their surrogacy arrangements,” Andrew Spearman, head of family law and surrogacy specialist at A City Law Firm previously told Yahoo UK.

“In the US the surrogacy is governed by contract law and all the rights, payments and ‘rules’ during the surrogacy (for both surrogate and intended parents) are codified in this one document.”

The contact will make provisions specifically to deal with: who is to be present at the birth, who gets to first hold the child and whether the surrogate mother has the opportunity at all, parental rights generally and at what point the surrogate surrenders custody of the child.

“In the UK, we do not have any similar pre-birth orders, for various reasons, but mainly because of public policy in this area and the surrogate’s absolute right to be the legal mother of any child born to her until the parental order is granted by the court.”

According to Spearman, the surrogate can't give her consent to the transfer of legal parenthood until at least six weeks after the birth and this can be withdrawn at any point up to the court order. “The court cannot force the surrogate to change her mind,” he explains.

In practice, it is rare for a surrogate to withhold consent. “However, when it does happen then the consequences are catastrophic for the intended parents and their child.”

Stock picture of a mum and baby. (Getty Images)
Surrogacy is rising in the UK. (Getty Images)

Are surrogates entitled to maternity leave?

In the UK, surrogates have the right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, regardless of whether she keeps the baby or not.

“What a birth mother does after the child is born has no impact on her right to maternity leave,” the Government site explains.

Where to go for further information and advice?

Additional reporting PA.