Almost four times as many parents in England and Wales are using surrogates now compared to a decade ago, it was revealed today.
A report by Kent University found there were 413 babies born to surrogate mothers last year, compared to just 117 in 2011.
Two-thirds were among heterosexual couples and most were in their 30s and 40s.
One surrogate mother claimed the uptick was because the procedure has become more mainstream over the past decade.
Kim Kardashian and estranged husband Kanye West’s children Chicago, three, and Psalm, one, were born to surrogate mothers.
Reality TV star Kim opted to go down the surrogate route after suffering placenta accreta, a serious medical issue that occurs when part of the placenta stays attached to the uterus after birth.
The 40-year-old said after welcoming Psalm: ‘I always knew surrogacy was an option — now it’s my reality. Whatever is meant to be will be.’
Experts have previously suggested influential celebrities choosing to have surrogates may have helped to normalise the practice.
Surrogacy first became legal in the UK in 1985, but many couples struggle to find mothers willing to help. In the US, the first state made surrogacy legal in 1989.
Kent University researchers found 413 parental orders were issued in England last year, compared to just 117 in 2011. A parental order is used to transfer legal responsibility from a child to a baby’s parents
One surrogate mother said Kim Kardashian had made the procedure more mainstream. The 40-year-old reality TV star used it for two of her four children
Kim lovingly cradling her three-year-old daughter Chicago, who was born to a surrogate mother, in a sweet Instagram album back in April
Kim’s youngest child Psalm, one, was also born to a surrogate mother. Psalm is pictured playing in a ball pit last April
In the UK, a surrogate is deemed the legal mother when the baby is born irrespective of genetics or agreements. A parental order must be made to transfer legal rights to the intended or biological parents.
Surrogacy charities said the number of women looking to be surrogates had ‘risen considerably’ in recent years, but more were needed.
The report — first reported by the BBC — used data from the Ministry of Justice, which was obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
WHAT ARE THE SURROGACY LAWS IN THE UK?
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but if you make a surrogacy agreement it cannot be enforced by the law.
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.
Legal parenthood can be transferred by parental order or adoption after the child is born.
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.
The intended parents and surrogate can record how they want the arrangement to work in a surrogacy agreement.
Surrogacy agreements are not enforceable by UK law, even if you have a signed document with your surrogate and have paid their expenses.
You cannot pay a surrogate in the UK, except for their reasonable expenses.
It was carried out by Kent University and My Surrogacy Journey, which is a non-profit organisation that supports surrogates and intended parents.
Natalie Gamble, the director of surrogate and intended parent matching agency Brilliant Beginnings, said more women are looking into the role.
She said: ‘We get around 100 enquiries a month from women who want to be surrogates and that’s risen considerably in the past few years.
‘Unfortunately, there are still more intended parents looking for a match than we can help.’
Dr Channa Jayasena, a reproductive hormones expert at Imperial College London who was not involved in the report, said there was currently ‘unprecedented demand’ for surrogates.
She added: ‘Fertility treatment for same-sex male couples and those who with gender reassignment may further increase the future demand for surrogacy.
‘It will be interesting to see if future changes to regulations encourage or discourage women to come forward as surrogates, at such a period of unprecedented demand.’
A surrogate who runs a Facebook group to match intended parents and surrogates said she thinks the practice has become more mainstream.
NHS worker Gina Kinson, 43, from Kent, who set up the group after being a surrogate herself said they now have more than a thousand members.
She told the BBC: ‘Across independent groups there have been over 40 babies born in 2019 alone.’
Ms Kinson has carried two baby daughters for Frances Simmons, 39, from Stockton-on-Tees who decided to use surrogacy after cervical cancer led to her uterus being removed.
She told the BBC: ‘You hear about the Tom Daleys who have surrogacy in the US and spend thousands, but on the Facebook groups it is just normal people, teachers, people who re-mortgage their houses.’
There have been repeated calls for the UK to reform laws written in 1985 to make intended parents legally responsible for their children as soon as they are born.
In other countries such as the US, laws already make intended parents legally responsible as soon as the baby is born.
Sarah Norcross, the director of infertility support charity the Progress Educational Trust, said: ‘These figures drive home the fact that reform of UK surrogacy law is long overdue.
‘Thankfully, some are able to navigate the law as it stands and achieve their intended outcome.
‘All too often, however, the law can leave surrogates, intended parents and the clinicians who treat them uncertain as to their legal position.
‘A law which simplifies surrogacy arrangements is sorely needed.’
The UK Government is undertaking a review into surrogacy laws, with the conclusion expected to be published in 2022.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We know surrogacy is an important option for families and we remain committed to reforming legislation to ensure more certainty for surrogates and intended parents.
‘The Law Commission is undertaking an independent review on surrogacy, which is due to conclude in 2022.’
Professor Nick Hopkins, who is leading the review, said they received their ‘largest volume of responses’ when the review began, and that the law ‘does need updating’.