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What’s the Difference Between Gestational Surrogacy and Traditional Surrogacy?

Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional Surrogacy

Whether you have heard about surrogacy before, or it’s a new topic for you, it’s important to understand what it means to grow your family through surrogacy and what it all entails. Generally speaking, surrogacy is an option for intended parents hoping to expand their family, but who are not able to do so themselves. 

There are two main types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. 

What is Gestational Surrogacy?

With gestational surrogacy, a woman — called a gestational carrier, surrogate mother or surrogate — is used to carry the egg and sperm of the intended parents. Or, for same sex couples or individuals, the egg or sperm provided by a donor. Gestational surrogacy is most commonly used when intended mothers are not able to carry their baby to term due to infertility or another known medical condition. 

Once the egg and sperm have been taken from the intended parents or donor respectively, they undergo a process called in vitro fertilization (IVF). Put simply, IVF is a technique that fertilizes the eggs and sperm inside of a laboratory to form embryo(s). These are, then, implanted into the gestational carrier. Because the gestational carrier  is not biologically related to the child, there are less legal complications. There is no risk of her wanting to keep the baby, as she knows from the beginning what she is agreeing to. That is, helping a couple or individual have a family they couldn’t otherwise have.

What is Traditional Surrogacy?

In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s egg(s) and intended father’s sperm are used during the fertilization process. This means that the surrogate shares a genetic connection with the intended parents’ child and is considered the biological mother. In some cases, the surrogate can choose to keep the baby once he or she is born, instead of giving them to their intended parents per agreement. Because this can, in turn, lead to many legal issues, traditional surrogacy is largely banned in the United States. 

However, if you, as the intended parents, want to grow your family through traditional surrogacy, you’ll want to see if your state allows it and get a lawyer to help you through the process.

Compensated Surrogacy vs. Altruistic Surrogacy

Other types of surrogacy include the following, compensated vs. altruistic and independent vs. agency-assisted. 

Compensation Surrogacy: also referred to as “commercial surrogacy,” is a surrogacy arrangement where the surrogate mother is compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses.

Some countries across the U.S. have banned or prohibited compensated surrogacy due to ethical concerns. While there are compensated surrogacy laws that exist to protect the surrogates involved, there are also potential consequences that should be researched and carefully considered. Be sure to consult with your surrogacy caseworker to learn more about this.

Altruistic Surrogacy: also referred to “identified surrogacy,” is any surrogacy arrangement where the surrogate mother either refuses payment or is NOT compensated for her services. In many cases, the surrogate involved with an altruistic surrogacy agreement is close to the intended parents (i.e. a family member or close friend), and cares more about helping out than being paid. 

Entering into this type of agreement with a family member or close friend can be very exciting, but both parties need to be aware of the potential complications or unforeseen expenses that may arise during the surrogacy process. For this reason, it’s highly encouraged for intended parents and surrogates to both work with a surrogacy professional who can help them with any legal or medical aspects.

Independent Surrogacy: also referred to as “private surrogacy,” is any surrogacy arrangement where the intended parents and surrogate mother do not work with a surrogacy agency. In most cases, intended parents choose independent surrogacy when they already have a surrogate they’d like to work with in mind. Otherwise, it can be very challenging to be matched without an agency’s help (see ALTRUISTIC SURROGACY).

The surrogacy process can be completed without the help of a surrogacy agency. However, independent surrogacy does not have third-party support throughout the surrogacy journey. This only comes through an actual surrogacy agency.

Agency-Assisted Surrogacy: any surrogacy arrangement where the intended parents and/or surrogacy work with a licensed surrogacy agency. This offers both parties with many valuable and helpful services to help them through the surrogacy process. These services include, but are not limited to:

  • Advertising
  • Matching
  • Screening
  • Counseling
  • Surrogacy planning and case management
  • Legal help
  • Assistance with medical processes

Agency-assisted surrogacy is very much a “one stop shop” for both intended parents and surrogates.

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