What is Surrogacy? A Short Guide

surrogate delivery

In recent years, surrogacy has become a common form of assisted reproduction. If you’re looking to learn more about surrogacy, you’ve come to the right place!

The Definition


Surrogacy is when a woman bears a child for another person or couple, becoming pregnant either through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Gestational vs. Traditional


There are two types of surrogacy, gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, the more common practice, a surrogate becomes pregnant via in vitro fertilization and is not genetically related to the child to whom she gives birth. In a traditional surrogacy, a surrogate becomes pregnant via intrauterine insemination, uses her own eggs and has a genetic connection to the baby. Today the vast majority of surrogacy arrangements involve gestational surrogacy. All of Circle’s surrogacy agreements are between gestational surrogates and intended parents.

Compensated vs. Uncompensated


When arranging a surrogacy, there are two options: compensated surrogacy and uncompensated surrogacy. In a compensated surrogacy, the surrogate receives payment for her services, the intended parents pay all medical costs, and the parties typically work with a surrogacy agency, like Circle. In an uncompensated (sometimes called “altruistic”) surrogacy arrangement, the surrogate is often a friend or relative of the intended parents, and she receives no payment outside of reimbursement for medical expenses. The majority of surrogacy arrangements, including Circle’s, involve compensated surrogacy.

Common Surrogacy Situations:

People turn to surrogacy to build their families for various reasons. Intended parents include:

  • Heterosexual couples who have repeat miscarriages or several failed assisted reproductive technology attempts, such as in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination
  • Intended mothers who are unable to carry a child
  • Intended parents who have a genetic defect or health condition they don’t want to pass onto the child
  • Same-sex intended parents who want to have a genetic link to the baby

Getting Pregnant


The process by which a surrogate becomes pregnant depends on the type of surrogacy. With gestational surrogacy, the surrogate becomes pregnant by IVF—the intended mother’s eggs or eggs from an egg donor are retrieved through a surgical procedure and fertilized by sperm in a petri dish. The resulting embryos are cultivated in the laboratory for several days and one or more are then transferred into the carrier’s uterus.

Remaining Frozen Embryos


Frozen embryos are stored at your IVF clinic. If your family is complete, you will be advised on your options for the future of your embryos. If you choose to move your embryos, your IVF center will assist you in that process. Of course, you may use the cryopreserved embryos in a future surrogacy if you choose.

Surrogate Mother Qualifications


Women must meet certain requirements in order to apply to become a surrogate. Here are Circle Surrogacy’s requirements:

  • Has delivered a child of their own, and is currently parenting at least one child.
  • Has had uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries, as documented by medical records.
  • Is between 21-41 years of age.
  • Typically have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of no higher than 33. Calculate My BMI.
  • Is a citizen, legal resident or legal immigrant of the United States. If a surrogate is a legal resident or legal immigrant of the United States, the surrogate must be able to provide documentation that is valid for at least 2 years.
  • Does not participate in the following government aid programs: cash assistance, welfare, public housing and section 8. All other forms of government assistance will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Live in a surrogate-friendly state in the United States (we are very sorry but we cannot accept gestational carriers who reside in Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, New Jersey).
  • Has a valid driver’s license.
  • Has the support of her family. If married or partnered, the surrogate must have her partner’s support. Also, the surrogate and her partner/primary support person must agree to participate in a social work screening.
  • Is financially secure.
  • Leads a stable, responsible lifestyle.
  • Is willing to travel for IVF process. Please note, often these trips include overnight stays.
  • Does not use illegal drugs, smoke cigarettes, or abuse alcohol.

Find more information about surrogacy on an array of topics on our blog.

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