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Surrogacy in Iran | Law | Programs | Cost | Clinics

Surrogacy in Iran | Law | Programs | Cost | Clinics

Intended Couples’ Guide on Surrogacy in Iran

While surrogacy is not permitted in many countries of the Middle East and Europe, Iran offers a legal alternative for eligible married infertile heterosexual couples of Iranian and foreign origins. Same–sex couples and single individuals opting to have a baby via surrogacy in Iran are not eligible.

Surrogacy in Iran is legal both altruistically (when the surrogate is not financially compensated) and commercially (when the surrogate is financially compensated). This, along with Iran’s affordable surrogacy programs compared to other destinations, has led many infertile couples to choose Iran as their priority destination for the surrogacy process. This article delves into the world of surrogacy in Iran, exploring its legality, eligibility criteria, the surrogacy process itself, available programs, costs, and top–notch clinics.

Surrogacy Law in Iran 

Iran’s legal approach to surrogacy is unique. The Iranian legal system has recognized surrogacy as legally valid, religiously legitimate, and socially acceptable. There is no specific law governing it, but it is generally considered permissible based on interpretations of Islamic law (fatwas — the rulings on the point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority) issued by some religious authorities, including the Supreme Leader. This religious sanction provides legitimacy for surrogacy contracts, which are essential for a valid and socially acceptable surrogacy arrangement.

However, the lack of a comprehensive legal framework creates some uncertainties. While typical surrogacy contracts address essential aspects like financial responsibilities, parental rights, and the surrogate’s obligations during pregnancy, legal gray areas remain. For instance, questions arise regarding the surrogate’s right to terminate a pregnancy due to a life–threatening illness or the handling of situations where intended parents want to terminate a pregnancy because a fetus has fetal anomalies, but the surrogate disagrees.

Standard Practices and Legal Considerations

Despite these uncertainties, Iran allows both commercial and altruistic surrogacy. A standard arrangement typically involves a contract outlining the surrogate’s responsibilities, such as artificial insemination, carrying the fetus to term, and relinquishing parental rights after birth.

Following Iranian regulations, the surrogate’s name may initially appear on the birth certificate. However, the intended couple is ultimately recognized as the legal parents.

To travel back to their home country with the baby, the couple will need to follow their nation’s specific procedures for obtaining a passport for the child.

Debates and Uncertainties

Legally, there are debates regarding the child’s maternal identity — the egg donor or the birth mother. Most jurists consider the biological mother (egg donor) a legal mother. However, the surrogacy contract clarifies this by designating the intended parents as the legal guardians.

This unique system, with its blend of religious sanction and contractual agreements, has made Iran a destination for infertile couples seeking surrogacy options.

Eligibility Criteria for Intending Couples Opting for Surrogacy in Iran

For couples seeking surrogacy in Iran, eligibility typically hinges on the intended mother’s medical inability to carry a pregnancy. This can be documented by a physician’s confirmation of conditions like congenital uterine diseases, a prior hysterectomy, or heart conditions that pose a risk to the mother during pregnancy or childbirth. Additionally, couples who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death may also be eligible, with documentation often required.

Not all cases of IVF failure automatically lead to surrogacy. While intrauterine problems (issues with the uterus) are a frequent reason for choosing surrogacy, other scenarios exist. For instance, some infertile women with chronic illnesses may be advised to pursue surrogacy if certain medications they require pose a risk during pregnancy. In these cases, the woman’s eggs (oocytes) can still be used to create healthy embryos for surrogacy.

Surrogacy in Iran can be a viable option for intended mothers with various health concerns, including uterine problems, heart disease, kidney disease, certain autoimmune diseases like endometriosis, and rare medical conditions.

The Surrogate Criteria and Qualifications 

The surrogate mother in Iran must meet specific criteria to ensure a safe and successful journey. Here is a detailed breakdown of these requirements:

  • Marital Status: Must be married.
  • Age: While there isn’t a specific age range mandated by law, clinics often prefer candidates between 21 and 35 years old. This is because success rates tend to be higher within this age group. Some clinics, however, are more inclusive and accept surrogates aged between 36 and 45. This can be helpful in cases where finding a younger surrogate might be challenging.
  • Medical History: Must have a healthy medical history, free from chronic illnesses or conditions that could complicate pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy History: Must have had at least one successful pregnancy and childbirth with a healthy child of her own. This demonstrates her ability to carry a pregnancy to term.
  • Psychological Evaluation: May undergo a psychological evaluation to ensure emotional fitness for surrogacy.
  • Spousal Consent: The husband’s written consent is typically required for the surrogacy agreement between the surrogate and the intended parents.
  • Clean Criminal History: Many clinics will require verification that the potential surrogate has no criminal history or has never been involved in a crime. This is to ensure the safety and well–being of the intended child.

Additional Considerations:

  • BMI: Maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) is often a requirement.
  • Substance Abuse: Abstaining from smoking, drugs, and alcohol is usually expected.
  • Number of Previous Surrogacies: Some clinics may have limitations on the number of times a woman can act as a surrogate.

It is important to note that specific criteria may vary depending on the surrogacy clinic or program. The couples are advised to consult with the clinic directly for the most up–to–date information on their surrogate requirements.

Egg Donation in Iran 

In Iran, egg donation is legal and regulated by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. However, as of May 2023, using donated oocytes also requires approval through a religious fatwa issued by a qualified Islamic authority. There is a well–established system for egg donation restricted to married Iranian couples experiencing infertility who have received prior approval from the Civil Court. Iranian egg donors typically undergo a thorough medical and psychological evaluation to ensure they are healthy and mentally prepared to donate their eggs. It is essential to note that foreigners cannot receive eggs from Iranian donors and must travel with their own donor if they seek egg donation in Iran.

Sperm Donation in Iran 

The legal status of sperm donation in Iran is unclear. As of April 2023, no official law or regulation has been established regarding sperm donation. This means sperm donation exists in a legal grey area, neither explicitly legal nor illegal. However, a recent development adds another layer of complexity. In May 2023, the Ministry of Health declared that sperm donation, along with egg donation, would require approval through a religious fatwa [religious ruling] issued by a qualified Islamic authority. This indicates sperm donation may be moving towards a more regulated system, but the exact details remain to be determined.

Gender Selection in Iran 

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a technique used in Iran for infertility treatment, especially for cases involving a high risk of genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. While its primary purpose is to identify genetic diseases in embryos, it can also reveal the sex. This allows couples at risk of passing on X–linked disorders to choose embryos of the unaffected sex, preventing the transmission of the disease. However, using PGD solely for non–medical sex selection remains limited, despite the couples’ tendency to choose embryo sex before transfer to the uterus, especially for family balancing preferences. This practice raises ethical concerns and faces restrictions due to potential social imbalances if it becomes widespread.

Shipping Embryos to Iran

Prospective couples seeking to transport frozen embryos to Iran for surrogacy purposes should consider that this requires careful planning and consideration due to the lack of widely available information on import regulations. While clinics may advertise high success rates, regulations around embryo import for surrogacy can be unclear and subject to change.

Here is what to explore before proceeding:

  • Legality: Contact the Iranian Embassy or a lawyer specializing in international surrogacy to confirm if embryo import for surrogacy is currently permitted in Iran.
  • Safety: Shipping frozen embryos requires specialized cryogenic containers (CryoShippers) and experienced courier services to maintain the necessary temperature and ensure embryo viability.
  • Cost: Factor in the cost of cryogenic containers, transportation fees, storage fees, and potential customs delays when considering the overall expense.

To ensure a safe and compliant process, couples should seek professional guidance from a lawyer specializing in international surrogacy before attempting to ship embryos to Iran.

Surrogacy Process in Iran 

The surrogacy process in Iran for eligible couples involves legal steps, medical procedures, and religious considerations. Initial consultations, screenings, and matching with a surrogate come first. This is followed by comprehensive legal arrangements, including legal advice, contract development (drafting, blueprinting, and finalizing), negotiations, and signing. Couples using donor sperm or eggs must also obtain a religious fatwa from a qualified Islamic authority. Finally, the process includes medical procedures (IVF and embryo transfer), birth certificate issuance, and returning home.

Here is a more inclusive breakdown of the general process:

1. Initial Interview, Matching & Pre–Procedures

Intended parents connect with a clinic or agency specializing in surrogacy arrangements for the initial interview (virtual or, if they are staying in Iran, they can schedule an in–person meeting) to discuss their options, negotiate on the surrogacy contract, and finalize the matching process with a suitable surrogate.

There are two main surrogacy options available:

  • Traditional surrogacy: Intended parents can choose a relative or friend as the surrogate and potentially travel to Iran together.
  • Gestational surrogacy: They can work with the clinic or agency to find a gestational carrier and may also involve a family member or friend in the process.

Before legal and medical procedures begin, all involved parties (intended parents and surrogate) undergo health screenings and psychological evaluations to ensure everyone’s physical and mental well–being.

2. Legal Agreements and Fatwa (Religious Ruling)

A legal contract outlining parental rights, financial arrangements (including compensation for the surrogate in compensated surrogacy), and the responsibilities of all involved parties is drafted. This contract should be reviewed by a lawyer specializing in Iranian surrogacy law to ensure it protects the rights of all parties. As of May 2023, intended parents considering egg or sperm donation (which may be necessary in some cases) to initiate the surrogacy process require a religious fatwa of approval from a qualified Islamic authority.

3. The Medical Process of Gestational Surrogacy

The medical process for gestational surrogacy in Iran typically involves In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The possible scenarios depend on the intended parents’ unique situation and can involve:

  • Traditional IVF: If both intended parents are using their own oocytes and sperm, their reproductive cells are retrieved and fertilized in an IVF laboratory. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the gestational carrier’s uterus for pregnancy.
  • Egg Donation IVF: If the intended parents are using donor eggs (with the intended father’s sperm), the egg donation process is initiated. Donor eggs are retrieved and fertilized in a lab with the sperm from the intended father. The resulting embryos are implanted in the gestational carrier’s uterus.
  • Sperm Donation IVF: If the intended parents are using donor sperm (with the intended mother’s eggs), the sperm donation process is initiated. The intended mother’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized with the donor sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the gestational carrier.
  • Double Donation IVF (legal status unclear): In cases where both eggs and sperm come from donors, the retrieved eggs and sperm are fertilized in a lab, and the resulting embryos are transferred to the gestational carrier. The legal status of double donation in Iran is currently unclear. While a fatwa is required, consulting with a lawyer specializing in Iranian surrogacy law is essential to understand the legalities involved.

4. Birth Certificate and Establishing Parental Rights

In Iran, following a gestational surrogacy birth, the gestational carrier’s (birth mother’s) name is typically listed on the initial birth certificate, as Iranian law recognizes the gestational mother (woman who gives birth) as the legal mother initially. However, Iranian law allows intended parents to establish legal parenthood through a court process. This process formally recognizes them as the child’s legal parents on the birth certificate.

Surrogacy Cost in Iran 2024

Prospective parents considering surrogacy in 2024 should expect to pay between $19,000 and $30,000, including the pre–treatment screenings, IVF cycle(s), egg donation fees and the donor’s compensation, lab tests, ultrasound scans, prenatal care, medication, embryo transfer, surrogate’s fees, and legal support of the couple until they receive passport/ exit permission for the newborn. Most clinics and agencies have fixed–price programs with transparent breakdowns of costs for each service provided and fees for receiving extra services. It should be noted that the final cost of surrogacy in Iran depends on the agency and services chosen and is less expensive than in most countries where it is allowed. For example, the estimated cost of surrogacy in the United States in 2024 is $150,000; in the United Kingdom — $39,000; in Colombia — $60,000; in Mexico — $57,000; and in Canada $100,000.

The basic surrogacy package standardly includes consultations with clinicians, fertility specialist(s), nurses, fertility screenings, laboratory tests, ultrasound scans, IVF cycle, medication, one transfer trial, vitrification of the excessive blastocyst embryos and their storage for 12 months, prenatal care, neonatal care, postnatal care for the surrogate mother and fetus/newborn, C–section or natural delivery, surrogate mother’s compensation, and accommodation for 14 days. The cost of such program in 2024 is $19,000.

If the cycle fails and prospective parents have frozen embryos left, they should expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,500, including medications, to do a second transfer. The alternative options to cryotransfer are a fresh IVF cycle, Egg Donation IVF, Preimplantation Genetic Testing IVF, and Sex Selection IVF.

The Guaranteed surrogacy package cost starts at $29,000 and covers pre–IVF consultations and screenings, IVF cycle, egg donation, accommodation for 14 days, medication, ultrasound scans, unlimited embryo transfers, unlimited vitrification, devitrification, and revitrification of the embryos, prenatal/neonatal/postnatal care for the surrogate mother and fetus/newborn, C–section or natural delivery, and surrogate mother’s compensation.

Most guaranteed programs include frozen embryo transfer backups; some may cover additional fresh IVF cycles. If only one fresh IVF cycle can be initiated and the intended parents would like to give a try to a new fresh IVF instead of using vitrified embryos, additional fees may apply. For those wondering what the cost will be for an additional cycle, here is a breakdown of costs:

  • An additional IVF cycle, including embryo transfer, is around $3,000, including consults, drugs, ultrasounds, tests, the IVF cycle, embryo transfer, post–treatment follow–up, and airport pick up/drop off.
  • Egg donation IVF, including medical consultations, pretreatment screening, treatment, post–treatment follow–up, and airport pick–up/drop–off, costs between $5,000 and $6,000 per cycle.
  • IVF with Sex Selection PGD, including consultations, treatment, and post–treatment follow–up pricing ranges from $5,500 to $6,000.
  • IVF with Egg Donation and PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) inclusive of consultations, treatment, and post–treatment follow–up cost starts at $7,500.

It is worth noting that these costs are estimates and may vary depending on individual circumstances. Factors like the couple’s medical history, the number of IVF cycles required, and any complications during pregnancy can all influence the final price tag. For the most accurate cost estimate, it is recommended that you contact a reputable surrogacy clinic in Iran directly.

Additionally, there are potential non–medical expenses to consider. These might include travel costs, translation services, and additional living expenses while in Iran. Couples should factor these in when budgeting for their surrogacy journey.

Finally, while Iran offers a cost–effective surrogacy option, it is essential to be aware of the legal landscape. Surrogacy arrangements are not governed by a comprehensive legal framework. Consulting with an attorney specializing in international family law is highly advisable to ensure a smooth and secure process.

Best Surrogacy Clinics in Iran

For infertile couples seeking to build a family, choosing a surrogacy clinic or agency can be a hurdle–filled process. Selecting between various highly–rated surrogacy clinics can be a challenging scenario, especially for first–time couples. In such cases, considering some key factors is vital to ensure a smooth journey:

  • Success rates: Look for clinics with high success rates for surrogacy procedures.
  • Experience: Choose a clinic with a team of experienced fertility specialists and surrogacy coordinators.
  • Cost: Surrogacy costs in Iran can be lower than in other countries, but be sure to factor in all the expenses involved.
  • Legality and regulations: Make sure the clinic is aware of and adheres to all Iranian laws and regulations regarding surrogacy. It is essential to consult with an attorney specializing in international surrogacy to ensure compliance with Iranian law and your home country’s regulations.
  • Communication: Choose a clinic with staff who can communicate effectively with you in your language. 

By considering these factors, you can increase your chances of finding a reputable surrogacy clinic in Iran to help you achieve your dream of parenthood.

Important Note: While some examples of Iranian surrogacy clinics are listed below, thorough research is vital to find the best fit for your needs. These are just a few examples:

Consider contacting these clinics directly to inquire about their surrogacy programs, success rates, and costs. This additional information will help you narrow down your options and choose the clinic that best suits your needs.

Surrogacy Success Rate in Iran 

While specific data on national surrogacy success rates in Iran is limited, clinics advertise success rates of around 90% for specific guaranteed packages. It is essential to remember that these may not reflect national averages and could be for specific circumstances.

Reported success rates for single–attempt surrogacy in Iran can vary depending on factors like the source of the eggs. Success rates are typically around 70% when using donor eggs, and around 60% when using the intended mother’s healthy oocytes.

There are several other factors that influence surrogacy success rates overall. Clinics with advanced equipment and highly skilled embryologists can play a significant role. The physical health and pregnancy history of the surrogate are also essential. Additionally, the age of both the surrogate and the biological parents can be a contributing factor. Success rates can also be impacted by the quality of the sperm and oocytes used, as well as the quality of the embryos themselves.

Beyond Affordability: A Nuanced Look at Surrogacy in Iran

Iran offers a unique and potentially affordable surrogacy solution for eligible infertile couples seeking to build a family through surrogacy. With legal sanctions based on religious rulings and a growing number of experienced clinics, the country provides a streamlined process with competitive costs compared to other destinations. However, couples should be aware of the evolving legal landscape and the importance of seeking professional guidance to navigate the legalities. Going solo parenting with IVF and donor sperm or egg and gestational surrogacy in Iran is not currently possible, nor is initiating surrogacy arrangements for same–sex couples. Heterosexual, officially married couples facing infertility can find Iran to be a welcoming and supportive surrogacy hub. However, it is essential to remember that this journey won’t be without complexities. The legal framework surrounding surrogacy in Iran is evolving, and there are uncertainties that need to be navigated. For instance, while gestational surrogacy is legal, the use of donor sperm or eggs can introduce additional requirements, such as approval through a religious fatwa. Prospective parents should undertake extensive research and seek guidance from lawyers specializing in international family law and surrogacy professionals to ensure a well–informed decision.

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