Types of Surrogacy and Definitions


What is the definition of surrogacy? What is gestational surrogacy? If you’re wondering what all these surrogacy terms mean, you have come to the right place!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines surrogacy as “the practice by which a woman (called a surrogate mother) becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children.”

Types of Surrogacy

Within that broad definition, there are many different ways to define surrogacy — by the way the embryo is created, by whether the surrogate is compensated or not, by which professional you work with, and so much more! Here are just a few different types of surrogacy to define:

  • Gestational Surrogacy: the family planning option in which a woman (surrogate) carries and delivers a child for a couple or individual. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate (or gestational carrier, or GC) carries a child conceived of the egg and sperm of two other individuals and is therefore not biologically related to the child. 
  • Traditional Surrogacy: the family planning option in which a woman (surrogate) agrees to carry a pregnancy for an intended parent or parents and in which the surrogate is genetically related to the baby. In traditional surrogacy the surrogates eggs are used, making her the biological mother of the child she carries. Because this, in turn, creates emotional and legal issues, traditional surrogacy has been banned across the US and is no longer recognized as a form of surrogacy.
  • Commercial or Compensated Surrogacy: any surrogacy arrangement in which the surrogate mother is compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses. 
  • Altruistic Surrogacy: any surrogacy arrangement in which the surrogate mother is NOT compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses.
  • Agency Surrogacy: any surrogacy arrangement in which the intended parents and/or gestational carrier work with a licensed surrogacy agency.
  • Independent Surrogacy: sometimes called private surrogacy is any surrogacy arrangement in which the intended parents and surrogate mother do not work with a surrogacy agency.
  • Identified Surrogacy: any surrogacy arrangement in which the intended parents already have a gestational carrier in mind when beginning the surrogacy process. Often, it is a family member or close friend.

Surrogacy Definitions

In addition to understanding the definition of surrogacy, you also need to understand the various terms that are associated with the surrogacy process. Here are some surrogacy definitions to be aware of:

  • In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF): The surrogate becomes pregnant through the IVF Process – the process in which the surrogate is inseminated with the intended parents’ lab-fertilized embryo, and becomes pregnant with their child. 
  • Intended Parent: this is the person who cannot carry a baby to term and hires a surrogate instead. In gestational surrogacy, egg and sperm from the intended parent (or a donor) are a part of the transferred embryo. An intended parent may be a single parent, same-sex couple, or a married couple.
  • Surrogate: this is the woman who carries a baby to term for the intended parents. Usually, she is between the ages of 21 and 39, has had a previous successful pregnancy, and already has child(ren). Surrogates are also often called gestational carriers or gestational surrogates
  • Surrogacy Agency: This is the organization that helps intended parents and prospective surrogates through every step of the surrogacy process, from screening to matching to mediating contact and more.
  • Egg Donor: If the intended mother can’t provide her own eggs for the IVF, she can use a donor’s eggs. An intended mother may decide to use donated eggs if her own eggs are unhealthy. Gay or single men may also use egg donors, since they can’t provide the eggs themselves. The egg donor and the surrogate mother are two separate people. The surrogate can’t provide her own eggs, so the intended parents would have to acquire the eggs from elsewhere. Sperm banks and sperm donors are also available for intended parents who can’t provide sperm for the IVF.
  • Egg Retrieval: It’s easy to collect sperm for the IVF, but it takes time to collect the eggs. The intended mother or egg donor will have to undergo surgery to retrieve said eggs.
  • Embryo Transfer: Following IVF, the embryos are placed inside the surrogate mother in the hopes that at least one will stick. After the transfer is complete, the surrogate will be monitored. Once it is confirmed that she is pregnant, she’ll have to see an obstetrician regularly.
  • Matching: Surrogacy agencies interview both the surrogate and the intended parents before introducing them to each other. They match surrogates with intended parents based on their desires and preferences. For example, if a surrogate mother is passionate about helping members of the LGBT community, she may be paired with an LGBT couple or individual.

There are more terms associated with surrogacy, but these are the general surrogacy definitions you need to know while exploring our website. If you’re interested in more information on what surrogacy is and how it works, we recommend you contact a surrogacy professional at Adoption and Surrogacy Choices or Colorado to learn more about how to get started with the process.


If you are interested in becoming a surrogate, have you read the eligibility requirements?

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