Surrogate Motherhood:

Using a surrogate mother — surrogacy — is still somewhat controversial. But it is one more option people have for having a baby through new reproductive technologies.

What Is a Surrogate?

There are two kinds of surrogate mothers.

Traditional surrogates. Artificial insemination first made surrogacypossible. A traditional surrogate is a woman who isartificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. She then carries the baby and delivers it for the parents to raise. A traditional surrogate is thebaby’s biological mother. That’s because it was her egg that was fertilized by the father’s sperm. Donor sperm can also be used for a traditional surrogacy.

Gestational surrogates. In vitro fertilization (IVF) now makes it possible to harvest eggs from the mother, fertilize them with sperm from the father, and place the embryo into the uterus of a gestational surrogate. The surrogate then carries the baby until birth. A gestational surrogate has no genetic ties to the child. That’s because it wasn’t her egg that was used. A gestational surrogate is called the “birth mother.” The biological mother, though, is still the woman whose egg was fertilized.

Who Uses Surrogates?

A woman might decide to use a surrogate for several reasons:

  • She may have medical problems with her uterus.
  • She may have had a hysterectomy that removed her uterus.
  • There may be conditions that make pregnancy impossible or medically risky, such as severe heart disease.

Other women choose surrogacy after trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant with a variety of assisted-reproduction techniques (ART), such as IVF.

Finding a Surrogate

There are several ways to find a surrogate mother:

Friends or family. Some people ask a friend or relative to be a surrogate for them. Doing so is somewhat controversial. But given the high cost of surrogacy and the complex legal issues it raises about parental rights, a tried-and-tested family relationship can be simpler to manage.

A surrogacy agency. Most people turn to a surrogate agency to arrange a gestational surrogate. The agencies act as go-betweens. An agency helps would-be parents find a suitable surrogate, makes arrangements, and collects any fees passed between parents and the surrogate, such as reimbursement for her medical expenses.