Difficult adoption process pushing infertile Kiwi parents overseas

Couples who have exhausted all their options for conceiving a child can turn to adoption - but in New Zealand, that can be a trying experience.

"Adoption's not the first choice, it's not even usually the second or third choice, they're looking at everything and then there's adoption," psychology lecturer Rhoda Scherman told Three's The Project.

In three decades there has been a 98 percent drop in the number of babies being adopted by non-family members in New Zealand.

If they do manage to adopt domestically, the system is an interesting one - almost all NZ adoptions are open ones, meaning the birth parents stay in contact with the child.

"A lot of the problems with adoption in the past have been because it's closed, and  closed means there's a lot of questions that can't get answered," Dr Scherman said.

She would know; her parents adopted her when she was three, and she never met her birth parents.

"I used to think as a young girl I would be happy, I'd be content to just stand on the corner and just see [my mother] across the street," she said.

For many prospective parents, the only option is to head overseas.

Ruth Kelsall adopted two children from China and one in New Zealand, she says the adoptive parents have to be aware of the special problems adopted children face.

"They have issues around abandonment, they have issues around trust," she said.

However some hopefully parents can't even get on the list to adopt a child. Wendy Bowen Graham can't have a child due to a heart condition, which also makes her ineligible to adopt.

"Normally when you're going to adopt a child you have to be quite healthy - and if a mother has got a known condition, then she's basically ripped off the list," she explained.

Watch the video for the full The Project segment.