Alternative options available in Vietnam for couples who want to be parents

Dear Antoine,
My boyfriend and I are over 30 now, and we think it is time to start a family. Unfortunately, we are not able to have our own babies therefore we’re thinking about using assisted reproduction  methods here in Vietnam. However, we have tons of questions: What are the processes? Are these methods even allowed here? And what are the requirements to use them? Is marriage one of them?

Assisted reproduction methods are now common in most countries in the world, however, each country enact less, or more, stringent regulations on them. Vietnam seems to be in the middle. Let’s start with some definitions. Vietnamese law allows the following methods of assisted reproduction: artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization (IFV) and surrogacy arrangement. These methods are different and Vietnam has promulgated specific provisions for each of them.

Although many people think artificial insemination and IVF are similar, or IVF is just a type of artificial insemination, these two methods differ in the way they are performed. On one hand, artificial insemination means the deliberate introduction of sperm into the female’s uterus or cervix for the purpose of achieving a pregnancy. This method is less “artificial” than IVF and depends on the female’s reproductive health. It is often applied for single women or women in relationship with men who suffer from male infertility. On the other hand, IVF refers to the process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body: in vitro or, in another term, in glass. It is said that both methods have an average success rate of 50 percent, according to  different hospitals’ reports. Some Vietnamese hospitals pride themselves on adopting and practicing international standards of reproduction techniques. Under Vietnamese regulations, the donation and receipt of sperm or embryos shall be conducted on the principle of anonymity of donors and recipients, while characteristics of donors, particularly their ethnic origin, shall be clearly
indicated.

Regarding surrogacy arrangements (as discussed in a previous column), Vietnam has authorized altruistic gestational surrogacy for couples. Under this method, a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for a couple who will become the newborn child’s parents after birth. In Vietnam, like in many other countries, the surrogacy has to be altruistic (which means, not commercial). In addition, Vietnamese law imposes some strict conditions on gestational surrogacy: it is allowed for (married) couples without a child, and when it has been certified that the wife is unable to give birth to a child herself; the surrogate mother must have a family link to the husband or to the wife. Only three medical establishments are allowed to perform it in the country.

A question that is often asked is whether the regulations provide for any marriage requirement, meaning whether assisted reproduction methods are only available for infertile married couples and not to unmarried couples or single person—it being understood that Vietnam does not yet provide for registered partnerships, so that the question whether couples under registered  partnership (rather than traditional marriage) may access assisted reproduction technology is not relevant here. As mentioned above, there is a marriage requirement for altruistic gestational surrogacy. For the two other discussed methods (artificial insemination and IVF), a 2015 decree allows married couple suffering from infertility and single women to have recourse to IVF: this means that this assisted reproduction method is not only allowed for married couples in Vietnam.

Depending on your marital situation and the kind of infertility that you as a couple is facing, you will be able to chose amongst one of the above methods. My first advice is, of course, to have appropriate medical tests to determine which one of the above methods will be the most relevant for you. Surrogacy is a special method, as you understand, and is unfortunately not so easily available in Vietnam except if you meet all specific conditions reminded above.

Based on your details, IVF may be the most appropriate method because it’s allowed to single women (which means also to unmarried couples). In addition, the legal rules on IFV are clear and explicit, which is not the case for artificial insemination. I would advise you to contact some of the Vietnamese hospitals offering these services. Having a baby through assisted reproduction
techniques is not easy to go through, regardless where you are in the world, but pregnancy is said to be the most beautiful thing on Earth.