What is the Difference Between a Surrogate vs a Gestational Carrier?

pregnant woman wondering the difference between a surrogate and a gestational carrier

Surrogacy is a meaningful way for intended parents to start or grow their families. Surrogacy agencies help to navigate the surrogacy process, and help define the specialized surrogacy vocabulary that goes along with using a gestational carrier. If you’re new to surrogacy, you might be wondering, “What is the difference between a surrogate and a gestational carrier?”

That is a GREAT question! This blog post will break down not only what is surrogacy, but what a traditional surrogate mother is, and how she is different from a gestational carrier.

What is Surrogacy?

By definition, surrogacy is the process or arrangement of someone giving birth for someone else. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy involves a traditional surrogate mother, while gestational surrogacy uses a gestational carrier. Below we will define what a traditional surrogate mother is, and how she is different from a gestational carrier. 

What is a Traditional Surrogate Mother?

A traditional surrogate mother is a woman who enters into a surrogacy arrangement who achieves pregnancy using her own egg and the intended father’s sperm (to create the embryo) and then carries the baby to term. A traditional surrogate mother shares DNA with the baby and is considered the biological mother of the baby. This is called traditional surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy is the less commonly-practiced form of surrogacy these days. There are emotional and legal challenges to being a traditional surrogate for an individual or couple. Gestational surrogacy is the type of surrogacy agencies use to grow families.

What is a Gestational Carrier?

A gestational carrier is a woman who carries a baby for someone else, but does NOT share any DNA with the baby. In gestational surrogacy, an embryo is created with the biology of the intended parents (or of a donor) in a laboratory and that embryo is then transferred into the gestational carrier’s uterus. The gestational surrogate is not related to the baby, making gestational surrogacy a safer and more widely-accepted form of surrogacy for emotional and legal reasons.

Can Gestational Carriers Be Called Surrogates?

Oftentimes, the terms surrogate, surrogate mother, gestational carrier and gestational surrogate are used interchangeably. Sometimes the term “surrogate” is used because it’s shorter, or more familiar; it’s definitely the term that is searched more often online when people are doing research. However, if you are looking into surrogacy with a reputable agency, we can almost guarantee that it will be gestational surrogacy. When you read about surrogacy in Circle’s website, you will read the terms “surrogate”, “gestational carrier” and “gestational surrogate” – these are all used to describe gestational surrogate and a gestational carrier.

How Do I Find a Surrogate/Gestational Carrier?

There are a few different ways to find a gestational carrier (surrogate). The first is to work with a surrogacy agency, who can match you with your carrier. At Circle Surrogacy, we have a matching department that works closely with intended parents and surrogates (separately) to find the best possible match. The match is found based on personal preferences the intended parents/surrogate may have, as well as any surrogacy requirements that must be met, including geographical requirements (for legal reasons) and number of embryos to transfer.

Another way for intended parents to find a gestational surrogate is to network through family and friends or online matching groups. This is referred to as matching independently with a surrogate.

Can I match with a surrogate on my own and still use an agency?

Yes! If you have found a family member or friend – or connected with someone in a matching group – and you would prefer to have the support of an agency vs doing an independent journey, Circle can help you!

Circle Surrogacy offers a Surrogacy with Your Own Surrogate program, our version of a Bring Your Own Surrogate (BYOS) Program. In this program, you can bring a surrogate you have found on your own to Circle, and we can manage your journey to whatever level of support you are looking for, including screening your surrogate and either managing your entire journey, or on more of an a la carte basis.

What Is the First Step in the Surrogacy Process for Parents?

If you’re interested in taking the first step when it comes to surrogacy, we highly recommend doing as much research as you can. Read blog posts, join social groups, and go to surrogacy agency websites, where you will find answers to some of your questions. A great second step is to speak with a few surrogacy agencies that you are interested in learning more about. At Circle, there is never a cost to intended parents to speak with our experienced team. You can fill out our short form and our team will answer your questions, hear your personal story on what brought you to surrogacy, explain the surrogate process, how much surrogacy costs and so much more. Once you speak with a few agencies, you will likely have a “gut feeling” about one of them – perhaps you connected personally with the Parent Intake Team, or the agency offers a cost program that works best for you financially.

Everyone’s surrogacy journey is unique, and on its own timeline. Take all the time you need to determine if surrogacy – and which surrogacy agency – is the best fit.

What Is the First Step in the Surrogacy Process for Surrogates?

If you’re interested in becoming a gestational surrogate, we encourage women to do their research. Take the time to read through websites and blogs, ask questions and learn as much as you can. You can also contact Circle and ask to be connected to an experienced gestational carrier who can share her experience with you.

When you have reviewed the surrogate requirements and feel you are ready to apply, you can fill out this form to be connected with a Surrogate Advisor!