What is a surrogate mother?
Updated: May 28
Merriam-Webster defines surrogate mother as, "a woman who becomes pregnant by artificial insemination or by implantation of a fertilized egg created by in vitro fertilization for the purpose of carrying the fetus to term for another person or persons."
You may be thinking, "what woman in her right mind would grow a tiny human inside of her that isn't even hers?" This is totally understandable and we fully expect this to cross most people's minds. However, many surrogates will agree the experience of being a gestational carrier is bigger than carrying another person's child.
Calling a surrogate mother a phenomenal woman is an understatement. These ladies are integral to surrogacy and as one of the most important roles in the surrogacy journey, it's important for any woman considering becoming a surrogate to learn as much as possible.
Continue reading to learn more about types of surrogates, who uses a gestational carrier, and where the embryo comes from.
Typically, a surrogate mother is a woman between the age of 21-35 who has already had a successful pregnancy/delivery and is healthy to have another pregnancy. There are two types of surrogate mothers: traditional surrogate and gestational Surrogate:
Traditional surrogate: a woman who is artificially inseminated with the intended father's sperm and shares a genetic link with the child. This form of surrogacy is rarely practiced anymore because of the emotional and legal complications that can arise.
Gestational surrogate: a woman implanted with an embryo created from the intended parents sperm and egg. The surrogate shares no genetic connection with the child. This is the main form of surrogacy practiced today.
Who uses a surrogate mother?
If you're considering becoming a surrogate mother or you're curious about the process, it's important to know why individuals and couples turn to surrogacy rather than pursuing traditional family building.
One-in-six individuals with face infertility challenges, affecting men and women equally. Many couples have gone through several unsuccessful IVF cycles before choosing this as a route for family building.
Woman consider surrogacy because of issues including:
Risk of complications and life exacerbated by pregnancy.
Surrogates have also helped to make parenthood possible for people who, otherwise, would not be able to pursue adoption because of their age, sexual orientation, or marital status.
LGBT couples are increasingly choosing to work with gestational surrogates and egg donors to fulfill their dreams of a family that is genetically connected to them.
These couples tend to use a surrogacy agency to help coordinate the legal, financial, medical, and logistical aspects of this process.. They will be able to look through prospective Surrogates profiles, and have the process managed by their coordinator. Each party is guided throughout the process when working with an agency.
How is the embryo created?
Pregnancy is achieved through the transfer using a procedure called in vitro vertilization. The embryo is created in an IVG lab using the intended father's sperm to fertilize it.
Each case is unique, as the embryo can be made from the intended mother’s eggs and the father’s sperm, or a combination of donor and intended parent sperm and eggs depending on fertility. Usually, this could be someone they know, or they may find a donation from an anonymous person through a fertility clinic who works with the surrogacy agency.
Do your homework
There is still controversy around using a surrogate mother to have a baby. The legal process, while more lenient in the US, still varies from state to state. You can receive significant compensation for being a surrogate, but this entails a lot of commitment and work on your part.
It is important to do your research. A surrogate mother plays the biggest role in this journey and needs to be armed with knowledge. Working with a credible surrogacy professionals will answer your questions, support you, and help decide if this path is right for you.