Khatia Shamanauri Mar 21, 2023, 2:34 PM GMT
Before the war started, both Russia and Ukraine were considered international surrogacy hubs. Georgia has since become the country where parents go looking for surrogates abroad. In the US, surrogacy fees can surpass $150,000, while in Georgia they’re closer to $22,000.
Nurses caring for surrogate-born babies at the Venice Hotel in Kyiv, Ukraine. SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
Just one year ago, Ukraine and Russia were considered international hubs for surrogacy. With numerous clinics, low prices, and favorable regulations that designate the biological parents as legal parents from the moment of conception, foreigners from around the world flocked to both nations to find surrogate mothers to bear their babies.
But times have changed.
Ukraine is no longer a safe destination, with Russian missiles raining down on cities, surrogate mothers struggling to stay alive, and biological parents who’d hired surrogates before the war enduring delays to take home their newborns.
Meanwhile, Russia adopted a new law in December prohibiting foreigners from using Russian surrogates, inspired by opposition to same-sex couples and by concerns about human trafficking and organ sales.
That’s led to extreme pressure on the country of Georgia, which is now becoming a hot spot for international surrogacy.
“The whole world came upon us,” Ketevan Robakidze, the founder of Georgia’s International Surrogacy and Egg Donation Agency, told Insider. “Following the war in Ukraine, people from all over the world are seeking surrogacy here in Georgia.”
She says inquiries to her agency from prospective parents have increased 100% in the year since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“A growing number of people from Israel, the US, China, and Europe are seeking surrogacy in Georgia,” said Nino Museridze, the clinical director of the Georgian-German Reproductive Center.
Georgia has unique advantages for international surrogacy
An infusion of foreign money has created a unique environment for surrogacy in Georgia. Though Georgian legislation has regulated surrogacy since 1997, the first child through the program wasn’t delivered until 2007. Since then, the industry has been booming.
“Foreigners usually pay well — that’s why surrogacy is so developed here,” Museridze said. “We have good regulations, high-quality technological resources, and low prices. At the moment, Georgia is the only country in this industry with such conditions.”
Fifteen clinics offer surrogacy programs in Georgia, at prices significantly lower than in the US. In some US states, surrogacy fees can surpass $150,000, as Insider previously reported. Robakidze’s agency charges just $22,000.
That’s even cheaper than prices in Ukraine were before the war. According to The Economist, the typical price for a Ukrainian surrogate was $35,000 to $55,000, with about 2,500 surrogates giving birth every year.
Georgia offers a supportive legal framework as well. The intended parents automatically have rights over the child and are listed as the legal parents on the birth certificate as soon as the baby is born.
But there’s one key exception: Same-sex couples are barred from surrogacy in Georgia, which, like many former Soviet republics, has highly hostile views toward LGBTQ people.
Demand is so high that agencies are recruiting from other countries
Demand is so high that Georgian surrogacy agencies are facing a lack of surrogates.
“It’s extremely hard to find enough surrogate mothers in a country with only about 3.5 million residents,” Robakidze said. She’s tried bringing in women from other countries, but it’s complicated.
Ketevan Robakidze, the founder of Georgia’s International Surrogacy and Egg Donation Agency. Courtesy of Ketevan Robakidze
Some agencies require surrogates to spend their entire pregnancy period in Georgia, under constant supervision. They’re also required to take medications and prepare for the reality of handing over babies to their biological parents shortly after birth. For some foreigners, that’s a big ask.
“We tried to bring in women from Kazakhstan, but it didn’t work,” Robakidze said. “They refused to take the necessary medications — in some cases, surrogate mothers fled the country.”
The lack of surrogates has driven up prices. About a year ago, hiring a surrogate mother in Georgia cost $15,000 to $18,000; now it costs about $21,000 to $22,000, with prices expected to rise further.
Some surrogate mothers struggle after birth
Agencies prepare surrogates physically and emotionally for giving birth. But despite that support, some of them struggle with their decision.
Natia Motsikulashvili is a former Georgian surrogate mother. In 2019, she gave birth to a foreign couple’s baby, for what she said was the first and the last time.
“It’s extremely difficult. I can’t do it again,” Motsikulashvili told Insider. “I carried a baby for nine months, and then they took him from me. It’s excruciatingly painful.”
Motsikulashvili said poverty had forced her to pursue surrogacy, which she had spent more than two years considering. She was tempted to reverse her decision, but once she’d signed the contract and started taking medications, she couldn’t change her mind.
Surrogacy allowed her to fulfill a dream — she was able to purchase a house for herself and her son in the small town of Gori.
“I have always yearned to own a house. This was my only motivation,” Motsikulashvili said. “I still stay in touch with that foreign couple. They always send me photos and videos of the child. We have not lost each other.”