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  • Kristin Marsoli

Types of Surrogacy & Your Choices: A Quick Guide


Close-up of dictionary definition of "surrogacy"

You've likely heard the term "surrogacy" in the news, or perhaps you know someone who was a surrogate or who grew their family through surrogacy. In recent years, surrogacy has become a common form of assisted reproduction. If you’re looking to learn more about surrogacy or gestational surrogacy, you’ve come to the right place!


What Is Surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when a woman carries a child for another person or couple. Depending on the type of surrogacy, a surrogate may become pregnant either through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI).


What Are the Types of Surrogacy?

Surrogacy can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Traditional and gestational

  • Compensated and altruistic

  • Independent and agency

Let's look at the differences between each of these options.


Gestational vs. Traditional Surrogacy

In gestational surrogacy, the more common type of surrogacy today, a surrogate becomes pregnant when an embryo is transferred into her uterus by a doctor. During this IVF process an embryo is created in a laboratory using the intended parents' (or a donor's) biology, so that the surrogate is not genetically related to the child to whom she carries and gives birth.


In 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.


Traditional Surrogacy Vs Gestational Surrogacy (Infographic)


Compensated vs. Altruistic Surrogacy

When arranging a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is compensated for her role in the process. The intended parents are responsible for all payments for the surrogacy. The surrogate---sometimes referred to as gestational carrier---receives pay and benefits, including:

  • Having all medical costs covered

  • A base compensation

  • A monthly stipend to spend however she wishes

  • Benefits for her family such as life insurance

The majority of surrogacy arrangements, including all of those through Circle Surrogacy, are compensated surrogacy.


Surrogate Compensation

Surrogate compensation is based on a variety of different factors, including the state the surrogate lives in, if she's been a surrogate before, if she has health insurance, and a few other factors. You can calculate a surrogate's estimated compensation on our Surrogate Pay page!


Surrogates are compensated for the physical, mental, and emotional dedication to the surrogate pregnancy. A gestational surrogate will be required to attend appointments, continually manage her self care and her nutrition, and sacrifice time with her own family to tend to any surrogacy needs. Her body will also be going through physical changes as well as emotional and mental experiences.


Altruistic Surrogacy

Altruistic surrogacy refers to a surrogacy arrangement where the surrogate is not paid compensation to carry the baby for the intended parents; this may also be referred to as uncompensated surrogacy. In altruistic surrogacy arrangements, the gestational carrier may be a friend or relative of the intended parents, and she receives no payment outside of reimbursement for medical expenses, and perhaps additional pregnancy necessities.


Sometimes, if compensated surrogacy is not legal in a state, intended parents may opt to do altruistic surrogacy.


Independent vs. Agency Surrogacy

An independent surrogacy journey is when the intended parents and their surrogate embark on their surrogacy without the help and support of a professional agency. This means that all parties involved will be responsible for managing all elements of the journey, including arranging clinic appointments and travel, finding two surrogacy lawyers (one for the intended parents and one for the surrogate), ensuring medical bills and the surrogate get paid, arranging for preparations for delivery, plus being responsible should they hit any challenges during the journey.


While doing an independent surrogacy journey will save you money, it's usually just the cost of the surrogacy agency fee that you are saving, as all other fees and costs still apply.


What a Surrogacy Agency Can Do for You

Choosing to do a surrogacy journey with a surrogacy agency means that the intended parents will pay the agency a fee for the services the agency provides, which can include:

  • Managing the entirety of the journey, which includes coordinating with the IVF clinic, the local monitoring clinics, and providing resources for parents at each milestone.

  • Sourcing and screening surrogates who meet agency and clinic requirements, and matching intended parents with a surrogate who is the right legal, geographical, and personality fit.

  • Providing a lawyer or connecting intended parents and surrogates with a lawyer.

  • Addressing any issues that come up during the journey.

  • Assistance in securing insurance for the surrogate.

Some intended parents find that paying an agency to manage the intricacies of a surrogacy journey is well worth the money, as it can be time-consuming and better handled by professionals. However, if you are looking to save some money and have the time and energy to manage your journey, independent surrogacy may be the right choice for you.


Who Can Benefit From Surrogacy?

The question isn't only "what is surrogacy" but "who does surrogacy." 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 on to the child

  • LGBTQIA+ intended parents who want to have a genetic link to the baby



Surrogacy Pregnancy

The process by which a surrogate becomes pregnant depends on the type of surrogacy. With gestational surrogacy, the gestational carrier 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.

Pineapple with sticky notes that say "sticky thoughts" and "transfer day"

What Happens to Any 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.


Where Is Surrogacy Legal?

Surrogacy is "legal" in the U.S. in 47 states. Currently, surrogacy is not considered legal in Michigan, Nebraska and Louisiana. While surrogacy laws by state may differ, it's important to work with an experienced lawyer who can guide you on your surrogacy journey.


The United States has the most favorable surrogacy laws in the world, which is why so many intended parents who live abroad will elect to do surrogacy in the U.S. And while surrogacy laws can not only vary by state---but also by county---understanding the laws that pertain to your surrogacy journey is imperative. In many cases, you'll follow the laws of the state in which the surrogate lives and will deliver. For international intended parents, when their child is born in the U.S. via surrogacy, the baby is considered a United States citizen but will have to follow their home country's laws upon returning home.


Surrogacy is more well known and talked about than even 5 years ago, however, the laws are continually evolving. What has not changed is how monumental a surrogacy journey is for all parties involved.


Interested in becoming a surrogate at Circle? Apply today!


Interested in learning more about becoming a parent through surrogacy? Fill out our parent form.

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