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What Is Surrogacy: Traditional vs Gestational Surrogacy


Woman placing hands on surrogate stomach (models)

Surrogacy and IVF are increasingly in the media spotlight, causing many people to wonder what surrogacy is, how it works, and how IVF fits into the process. We'll explore these issues in this post, discussing traditional vs. gestational surrogacy, what each type of surrogacy involves, and who chooses surrogacy to build their families.


Surrogacy Definition: What Is Surrogacy?

Surrogacy is the process or arrangement of someone giving birth for someone else. Surrogacy helps people become parents when they are unable to have children themselves. It is a method of assisted reproduction, helping intended parents work with a surrogate who carries and cares for the intended parents' baby(ies) until birth.


Surrogacy has been a family-building option for quite some time, though it has evolved over the years. 


How Does Surrogacy Work?

Surrogacy is a process that requires medical and legal expertise as well as a strong support system throughout the journey. Those who explore surrogacy to have a child are often referred to as intended parents (IPs for short).


During the surrogacy process, a fertility doctor uses IVF (in vitro fertilization) to create embryos in a lab at a fertility clinic. Sometimes the intended parents use their own genetic material. Sometimes, an egg donor is required.


At the fertility clinic, 1 to 2 embryos are then implanted into a gestational surrogate, who carries the baby(ies) to term.


Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional: What's the Difference?

There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Understanding each type of surrogacy will help you see if it is a viable family-building option for you.


Traditional Surrogacy

In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother uses her own egg in the process and has a genetic relation to the child. In many cases, the traditional surrogacy will be completed via intrauterine insemination with the intended father’s (or a sperm donor’s) sperm. Traditional surrogacy can require fewer IVF procedures in order to achieve a successful pregnancy.


Gestational Surrogacy

In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate does not use her own eggs to achieve a pregnancy, so she does not have a genetic connection to the child(ren). Instead, the IVF clinic will use the intended mother’s eggs (or donor eggs) and fertilize them via IVF with the intended father’s sperm (or donor sperm). When the embryos reach a specific maturity, 1 to 2 embryos are transferred into the uterus of the gestational carrier.


In this type of surrogacy, IVF procedures are required to retrieve eggs (either from the intended mother or an egg donor), fertilize the eggs, and prepare the gestational surrogate’s body to receive the embryo for a successful pregnancy.



Infographic comparing traditional vs gestational surrogacy


Which Is More Common: Gestational or Traditional Surrogacy?

The more common type of surrogacy today is gestational surrogacy. It reduces any emotional (and biological) connection between the gestational surrogate and the baby, helping to ensure intended parents are able to establish parental rights for the child. Most surrogacy agencies—including Circle Surrogacy—only do gestational surrogacy.


Why Choose Surrogacy To Grow Your Family?

Surrogacy allows couples and individuals from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and sexual orientations to build their families.


Intended parents who use surrogacy include:

  • Heterosexual couples who have struggled with infertility

  • 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

  • Gay and trans intended parents who want a genetic link to their baby


Each surrogacy journey is unique, and we are proud to have helped so many amazing families in the United States and around the world to grow.


If you're interested in learning more about surrogacy or becoming a surrogate, our experienced team can walk you through the process.

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