Surrogacy in the Nordics: understanding options and expectations

Surrogacy in Nordics can be complicated - or impossible. Ahead of the region's first surrogacy education conference, one parent of children born via international surrogacy looks at how Nordic citizens are handling the issue.

Surrogacy in the Nordics: understanding options and expectations

Finding accurate, unbiased information about surrogacy in the Nordics remains a challenge.

Fortunately, the region will soon host an important surrogacy education conference, bringing together parents via surrogacy, surrogacy lawyers, and other professionals from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US, Ukraine, Canada and Greece.

Hosted by the non-profit organisation Families Through Surrogacy, the August 12th event in Stockholm will allow attendees to share their experience and expertise, and will be particularly useful to local infertility organisations.

Surrogacy and the Nordics

Despite an absence of enabling laws, citizens from Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark have been creating families via surrogacy for many years.

Research conducted by Families Through Surrogacy in 2015 showed that, proportionate to population size, Norway was the third largest user of surrogacy globally (after Australia and Israel). Sweden was the sixth largest user.  

An estimated 800 Norwegians and Swedes created families via surrogacy in the years 2012 – 2014. Parents from Denmark and Finland were also represented in smaller numbers.

However, laws regarding surrogacy remain ambiguous in both Sweden and Finland.

Click to learn more about the Nordic surrogacy conference in Stockholm

Sweden's National Council on Medical Ethics has said altruistic surrogacy should be permitted. However, a Swedish task force recommended last year that no surrogacy should be allowed in Sweden at all, and that Swedes should be blocked from international surrogacy.

That being said, most Swedish political parties have taken a stand against this, so while a parliamentary vote is planned, a ban seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, Finland allowed limited domestic surrogacy where the surrogate was a close friend until 2007. While the practice has since been banned, Finnish parliamentarians are once again supportive of opening access to surrogacy domestically.

With surrogacy unavailable domestically, the US — as well as more cost effective destinations such as India, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal — were until recently popular destinations for Nordic parents.

But in the last few years, developing country options — which operated in the absence of legal protections — have closed to foreigners.

IVF versus surrogacy

Undeterred, prospective parents from the Nordics have instead been turning to countries with protective legal frameworks for surrogacy such as Ukraine, Georgia, Canada and some US states.

In Greece in March this year I met an infertile Norwegian couple who had recently become proud parents of newborn twins. If  it hadn't been for surrogacy, that couple would never have experienced such joy.

Tanya is another parent who will be sharing her experience of surrogacy at the upcoming conference in Stockholm.

Her journey began in 2010 in New York City, when with her husband, she engaged in standard IVF. Able to create only two embryos, the transfer was unsuccessful. 

During her second IVF cycle, Tanya was rushed into emergency surgery due to a medical complication, and consequently, was told to hold off on IVF for the immediate future.

Find out more about the surrogacy conference in August

By 2013 Tanya and her husband had moved to Stockholm for a work-related opportunity. She had been cleared by the doctors and was determined to try IVF again with donor eggs, however, at 44, she had surpassed the cut-off age and so Swedish clinics did not accept her.  

Instead they tried various clinics in Finland and Latvia, but another 18 months passed with no success.  Following further medical complications, doctors advised Tanya that carrying a child herself was simply too high-risk.

So, the couple turned to surrogacy.

Friends recommended a Georgian clinic where they had had success. Tanya and her partner travelled to Tbilisi for egg retrieval and transfer, and the first transfer was initially successful. However by week five, they had lost the foetus.

They went ahead with two further transfers but again, these failed. Though devastated, Tanya and her husband refused to give up.  

Despite the higher costs, they turned to surrogacy in the US. Ultimately an agency in the state of Oregon, Surro Connections, helped them decide on a clinic.

Now matched with a surrogate, Tanya expects to become a parent very soon.

So what about you? Do you want to start a family – and could surrogacy be right for you? Click here for more information on surrogacy

Sam Everingham is the parent of two daughters born through international surrogacy and the Founder of Families Through Surrogacy, a consumer-based non-profit organisation focused on bringing together surrogates, intended parents and families.

Register for Families Through Surrogacy's Nordic Conference in Stockholm on August 12th


This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Families Through Surrogacy.

For members


How much does it cost to bring up a child in Germany?

Most Germans say that family is the most important thing in their life - but what are the realities of raising children in Germany? We take a look at the outlook for families, and how much it really costs to raise a child.

A young girl with a piggy bank
A young girl with a piggy bank. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

The outlook for families in Germany

According to a recent report on families and finance by German payments provider Mollie, there are 11.4 million family households in Germany at the moment. Around 35.6 percent of these households have just one child, while 26.5 percent have two, and the rest have three or more.

Children under the age of 18 live in 8.2 million family households, and in the remaining 3.4 million households, families live with adult children. 

When it comes to the birthrate, Germany general falls in the middle of other European countries, with each woman having an average of 1.54 children. 

The so-called lockdown baby boom may be having some impact on the numbers: in March 2021, more than 65,000 babies came into the world in Germany. This is the highest number of newborns the country has seen in a single month since 1998. 

However, the authors of the study say the link between the birthrate and Covid may be a little more complex than that. While there were indeed record births in March, the birthrate only crept up by around 1.4 percent in the first part of the year as a whole. 

“This suggests that the pandemic has had little to no impact on family planning,” they explained. “Though families and couples may be keeping a closer eye on their finances and planning their spending more carefully since the pandemic.

“However, since there also hasn’t been a dramatic decline in births, current financial constraints nevertheless don’t seem to be having an impact on births in Germany either.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about parental leave in Germany

Cost of raising a child

Many parents will tell you that you can’t put a price on having children, but the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) would beg to differ. According to the latest data, raising a child in Germany will set you back around €148,000 by the time they turn 18 – and the costs increase along with the child’s age.

Here are the average annual costs of raising a child by age, according to Destatis:

  • 0-6 years old: €7,000 per year
  • 6-12 years old: €8,200 per year
  • 12-18 years old: €9,400 per year 

So, what are the main expenses involved in raising a child? According to Destatis, food, education and the cost of childcare in the first years of life all make a major dent in the family budget. Then, as children get older and develop other hobbies and interests, spending on leisure, entertainment and culture tends to also increase.

When comparing affluent families with low-income families, there was a clear difference in how much was spent on raising children. In 2018, poorer families spent an average of €424 per month on each child. Wealthy families, on the other hand, spent €1,212 euros – almost three times as much.

What about pocket money? 

Though it’s definitely not the largest expense involved in bringing up a child, many parents grapple with the question of how much pocket money to give their children. Luckily, the German Youth Institute (DJI) has recommendations on that, conveniently divided into different age groups as the chart below shows.

Chart showing recommended pocket money for kids

Chart showing the recommended pocket money for children at different ages. Source: German Youth Institute

For small children under the age of six, for example, €0.50 to €1 a week is the recommended pocket money, while teenagers aged 14-17 years should get between €26 and €63 a month, depending on their exact age.

By giving children pocket money each month, parents can teach them how to manage money better at an early age. With a fixed monthly amount, they ideally start to understand what they can afford and what they can’t, and also learn to prioritise the things they want or need the most. 

In addition to pocket money, DJI also suggests parents set aside a monthly budget for the child’s other expenses that can be managed by either them or older children. Adjusted for inflation in 2020, this budget includes €30-50 a month for clothes and shoes, €20-30 for eating out, €15-20 for public transport, €10-20 for a phone contract or credit, and €5-10 for stationary and toiletries respectively.

What financial help is there?

Though raising a child may feel financially unmanageable for some, Germany does have a wide range of government benefits available – especially for lower income and single parents.

Parents in Germany can access child benefits (Kindergeld), maternity benefits, parental allowance and tax relief while bringing up a child. From Kindergeld alone, parents receive €219 per child for their first and second child, which goes up to €225 for the third child and €250 for additional children after that. 

A mother and child
A mother looks after her child while working from home. There are many sources of financial help available for single and low-income parents in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

Single parents also have the option of getting an advance on maintenance payments from the government if the other parent fails to meet their obligations. The Federal Foundation ‘Mother Child’ (Mutter Kind) also offers help to mothers with small incomes in particular. 

The state also provides special support for families with low incomes, such as stipends for education and participation so that the child can take part in cultural and educational activities.


Financial support for pupils and students

For 50 years now, the Federal Government has been providing students with financial support for their education.

Regardless of the financial situation of their parents, young people receive BAföG, the so-called Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz), during the period of their training and studies.

Since the start of 2020/21 Winter Semester, the maximum BAföG stipend has been €861 euros per month, provided the student doesn’t live with his or her parents and financial assistance from the family is no longer possible.