What is third-party reproduction?

Third-party reproduction is the act of building your family with the help of another person's gametes (i.e., eggs or sperm), embryos, or uterus. Third-party reproduction includes embryo donation, sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy. Individuals and couples have the option to pursue third-party reproduction when the use of their own gametes or uterus is not possible or not available. The most common reasons for donation and surrogacy are due to infertility, single parenting, and LGBTQ+ family-building.

Many happy families are successfully created every day with third-party reproduction. However, this type of baby-making can bring a few extra considerations for everyone -- the intended parent(s), the donor,  the gestational carrier/surrogate, and the future child.

Counselling for third-party reproduction provides support, information, and strategies to help make this type of family-building as positive an experience as possible.

Third-party reproduction counselling can help you to:

  • Make the decision of whether donation/surrogacy is the right option for you
  • Prepare for your experience as an intended parent/recipient, donor, or surrogate
  • Know what to look for in a donor or surrogate/gestational carrier/IP
  • Learn how and when to inform your children of their origin story
  • Know if, how, and when to inform friends and family of your plans
  • Manage the relationships, boundaries, and expectations between all parties
  • Feel more attached and bonded to your child, regardless of genetic connection

What happens in a third-party reproduction counselling session?

If you are participating in third-party reproduction at a fertility clinic (as a donor, surrogate, or as intended parents), a counselling session is required by Health Canada and by the national and international fertility associations. In a third-party reproduction counselling session, Holly will provide you with information, support, and strategies to help make your journey as smooth as possible. As is the same in every counselling session, a psychosocial history is taken and information is collected regarding your pregnancy plans. Specific topics are discussed according to best practice guidelines outlined by the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. A report is then sent to the fertility clinic of your choice, which confirms you are read to move to the next steps in your journey.

Some things to know before your session:

  • Partners:  If you are living with a partner (cohabiting, common-law, married), they are required to attend this appointment with you. 
  • Unknown donation/surrogacy:  If you are working with a clinic/agency where you do not know your donor/surrogate (e.g., "anonymous" spermbank or eggbank), then your donor will already have had a counselling session as part of the pre-screening process. Please ask your clinic/agency if you are unsure.
  • Known donation/surrogacy:  If you know the other party (i.e., friends, family, met through a matching service, etc.), they will also need to attend a counselling session. It is recommended that each party have their own session (with partners) with the same counsellor, whenever possible. This is especially important when you know you will be having contact with each other during medical treatment, the pregnancy, or in the future.
  • Counselling report: A report that summarizes your journey and conforms you have discussed the required topics will be sent to your clinic after your meeting. When you know the intended parents/donor/surrogate, information from each party will be compiled into one report and sent to the clinic. The report is specific to each arrangement and in most cases is not transferable to other parties, other arrangements, or other clinics. The report is typically valid for up to one year, unless circumstances before that time alter your arrangement significantly (e.g., changes in health or mental health status, partner(s), source of gametes, etc.).
  • Video/remote sessions:  This type of session is offered using an encrypted videoconferencing program that is approved for counselling use. To book a video session, you will need to return the Intake & Consent Forms at least two days in advance, at which time you will be sent a link to the online meeting. You will need a device/computer with a good internet connection, access to a camera/webcam and microphone, and a quiet and private location for this session.
  • Fees: Each one hour third-party reproduction counselling session is $180 (including the report and tax). Fees are set according to recommendations by the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. Payment is accepted by credit card or e-transfer. After payment, you will be provided with a receipt that you can submit to your extended health care plan for reimbursement. In some cases, another party (e.g., intended parents, fertility clinic) will offer to pay for a session. Please ask your clinic how invoicing works in this situation, as some clinics allow direct invoicing and some do not.

About Holly Yager

Holly Yager, M.Ed., RCC 2981, CCC 3009 is reproductive health & fertility counsellor with extensive experience in third-party reproduction counselling for donation and surrogacy. Holly provides counselling to intended parents, donors, and surrogates across British Columbia and in some parts of Canada. Holly follows the best practice guidelines set by CFAS, ASRM, and Health Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act. Appointments can be booked online or by email.