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What is Surrogacy?

Single father with surrogate child

We explore the differences between Traditional & Gestational; and Altruistic & Commercial Surrogacy

“What does surrogate mean?”  Essentially a surrogate is the birth mother. Surrogacy is the act of a woman carrying to term an embryo (surrogate pregnancy) conceived from the sperm and egg of another man and woman where the child is intended to be the child of the person(s) who engage the surrogate through surrogacy arrangements. The man and woman (surrogate parents), may be a couple or single, could be the donors of their genetic material or they could engage donors separately.  In any event, the people who engage the surrogate are known as the intended parent(s).  If the woman surrogate parent is the one who provided the eggs then she is the biological mother.

Surrogacy was first mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Abraham and Sarah could not conceive a child, so Sarah asked her servant Hagar to bear Abraham’s child. Because there was no IVF at that time, the child that Hagar carried was conceived from her own eggs. This was traditional surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate mother carries a child conceived from her own eggs. Today, traditional surrogacy is prohibited in most countries around the world. 

Surrogacy is the act of being a surrogate, which means carrying a baby for someone else. The reason behind engaging a surrogate can differ depending on medical or personal reasons. Some people cannot conceive a child, so the need for a surrogate is medical.

The meaning of surrogacy, and the laws regulating it, differ from country to country. For example, some countries prohibit surrogacy for moral or religious reasons. For example, due to past controversies in Thailand surrogacy is only permitted for Thai citizens and in Ukraine it is limited to married heterosexual couples with a medical indication for surrogacy. Each country has its unique laws and regulations to regulate surrogacy. 

Likewise, some places in the world accept some forms of surrogacy and prohibit others. For example, in Nebraska, only commercial surrogacy is illegal. Yet, no explicit law determines any action against altruistic surrogacy. 

Gestational Surrogacy

Gestational surrogacy is where the surrogate mother has no biological link to the child she is carrying – the eggs have come from either the intended mother or an egg donor. The persons who engage the surrogate to carry a child on their behalf are referred to as the intended parent or intended parentsintended mother or intended father. We use the term IPs throughout our website and communications as the internationally accepted abbreviation for intended parents.

International surrogacy can be quite complex. This is due to the law of the country in which the baby is born being different from the law in the country of citizenship of the intended parents.  Navigating the differing international laws and ensuring the child attains the parentage of its intended parents is a compelling reason for having someone like us guide you through this journey.

Altruistic Surrogacy

Altruistic surrogacy is where the surrogate mother agrees to carry the child for no financial benefit or reward. In an altruistic surrogacy arrangement, the surrogate mother will typically have all of her medication, medical and hospital expenses paid for by the intended parents. The parents fund the medical costs to keep the surrogate and baby healthy during and after birth. The baby is typically conceived using IVF or artificial insemination. 

Commercial Surrogacy

Commercial surrogacy is where the surrogate mother, in addition to having all of her expenses paid by the IPs, will also be paid an amount of money for the act of being a surrogate. This amount may be paid by monthly instalments, by a lump sum towards the end of the pregnancy or a combination of both. In commercial surrogacy, the surrogate mother will also claim a broader range of expenses that have been defined in the surrogacy agreement, whereas in altruistic surrogacy, the range of costs is usually more tightly defined and restricted to actual medical, medication, hospital and related travel expenses. 

Commercial Surrogacy isn’t legal in all countries or states, such as the United Kingdom. There are a lot of complex legal issues behind commercial surrogacy, simply due to the compensation of which the surrogate demands.

The Differences Between Altruistic & Commercial Surrogacy

The differences between these types of surrogacy rely upon a strict definition of altruistic surrogacy is typically determined by legislation in the jurisdiction in which the surrogate mother is engaged by the IPs or the jurisdiction in which she gives birth to the child. In international surrogacy, the IPs go to a foreign jurisdiction to engage a surrogate, and in most cases, the child is born in that foreign jurisdiction. It is common to find that what is “altruistic” in one country is actually “commercial” in another country because of the different ways in which countries define altruistic. Some countries accept that payment of a lump sum to a surrogate at the end of the pregnancy is accepted as fair and reasonable compensation and still falls under their definition of altruistic surrogacy. This contrasts with other countries where the payment of any sum beyond a directly related medical or hospital expense would be outside the definition of altruistic surrogacy and therefore be considered a commercial arrangement.

As you can see, it is not a simple process to say my country permits altruistic surrogacy, and surrogacy in country X is described as altruistic, so I have nothing to worry about.

Finding a surrogate

Thanks to the internet age and modern technologies, it is now possible to find a surrogate online. Finding a surrogate can be as simple as finding a trustworthy company that can source surrogates and put you into contact with them for those seeking a surrogate to help have a child.

Surrogacy should always involve a legal agreement, which will be written up and signed by both parties before the act of IVF, artificial insemination, or another method, to finalize a legal agreement.

For more information, complete the Contact form or send us an email.

Important note: Please observe the publish date. This post may have been published some time ago and may not be up to date. We may not currently operate in the location discussed in this article. To view the list of surrogacy countries where we currently operate, please click here, and you will be directed to the surrogacy countries page.