What You Need to Know About Surrogate Pregnancy

Usually when we think of a surrogate pregnancy we mean a woman who carries a pregnancy for another person. This is only partially true so let’s define what is a surrogate and what is a gestational carrier.


According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a surrogate is a woman who donates her egg and carries a pregnancy for another. This is accomplished via 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. Usually, the male intended parent provides a semen sample

Gestational Carrier

A “gestational carrier” is someone who is commissioned to help a couple/individual who are trying to have a baby. The gestational carrier carries the pregnancy and gives birth. The intended parent/s who commissioned the carrier raise the child and are listed on the birth certificate as the actual parents.

It’s important to use these terms accurately. Referring to a surrogate or gestational carrier as a “surrogate mother” causes confusion about who the intended mother or parent of the baby is. The mother of the baby is the intended mother. The surrogate is not the intended mother of the baby in a surrogacy arrangement, even if she is genetically related to the child.

Surrogate Pregnancy Terms

  • Intended Parent: The person who cannot carry a pregnancy to term and is looking for a woman to carry and give birth to their baby for them
  • Surrogate: The woman who is pregnant with the intended parents’ baby and carries him or her to term
  • Egg or Sperm Donor: The person whose gamete is used to complete an embryo, if the intended parents cannot complete it by themselves
  • Surrogacy Specialist: The professional who works closely with the intended parents and surrogate to ensure the surrogacy process is completed successfully

Compensated vs. Compassionate Surrogate

Compensated surrogacy is an arrangement where the gestational carrier receives financial compensation above and beyond expenses. In the United States there are no federal surrogacy laws. Because gestational surrogacy laws can vary so widely from state to state, you’ll need to consult with your surrogacy specialist and your surrogacy lawyer to make sure that all of the legal issues with surrogacy are covered and you’re protected from any legal problems that may arise during the process.

Compassionate surrogacy means the surrogate does not receive compensation for her services beyond reimbursement for medical costs and other reasonable pregnancy-related expenses. Many of these arrangements are between family members or close friends and are completed as independent surrogacies.

Who May Need a Gestational Carrier?

There are a variety of reasons why an intended parent/s may want a gestational carrier to carry a baby for them, including:

  • The intended mother is missing her uterus (from birth or after removal for medical reasons)
  • Uterine malformations
  • Medical conditions that may endanger the mother or baby’s life if she were pregnant
  • Previous pregnancy or birth complications that may endanger the mother or child
  • Repeated unexplained IVF implantation failure
  • Repeated pregnancy loss not resolve with other treatments
  • Single man who wishes to have a child


American Society for Reproductive Medicine

American Surrogacy