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

What is the difference between a surrogate and a Gestational Carrier

If you are looking into fertility treatments and find yourself exploring surrogacy options, you may have come across a few different terms regarding what to call the generous and kind women who carry a couple’s baby for them. Surrogate, surrogate mother, and gestational carrier have all probably popped up in your search bar. But what is the difference between these terms? And what is the appropriate term to use when describing a woman going through this process?

The term “surrogate” is often used to describe a woman who voluntarily chooses to carry a child for prospective parents who may not be able to do so themselves. But there are actually two different ways a surrogate can carry a couple’s child. The first is known as “traditional surrogacy”. In this case, a traditional surrogate donates her eggs for the pregnancy, meaning that part of the baby’s genetics are shared with her, and she carries the pregnancy. Traditional surrogates can be referred to as having a “surrogate pregnancy” or being a “surrogate mother”. This surrogacy method is rarely used anymore because of the complex legal issues that surround it.  The second and far more common method is when parents decide to use a “gestational carrier”. A gestational carrier pregnancy is when a woman shares no genetic connection to the baby she carries and instead has an embryo implanted that has either the parents or another donor’s genetics. 

Lately, surrogacy has grown in popularity. Media coverage, more celebrities opening up about surrogacy , and an increase in knowledge about the process have made people feel more comfortable pursuing it as a method for creating their family. But as we move forward into the future of fertility treatments, it is important to be educated and understand the different paths parents take with a surrogate. Using the right term can help parents and women who are carrying a child feel more comfortable, while also helping people understand the realities of how modern surrogacy works.  Surrogate, surrogate mother, and gestational carrier are often used interchangeably by the public but professionals are careful not to confuse the two. Remember, a traditional surrogate or surrogate mother shares her DNA with the child. A gestational carrier on the other hand shares no genetic connection.  

Even with an understanding of these definitions, finding the right term can still be difficult in these situations. Lately, if a woman has donated her eggs as a surrogate, it has become more acceptable to use the term surrogate pregnancy than it is to use the term surrogate mother. Because she knows that she will not have a parental role in the child’s life, using the term “mother” can sometimes be language that she or the prospective parents choose to avoid. Ultimately, what term is right to use depends on the couple and surrogate, as preferences are different for different people. It is always best to ask what term they would prefer to use to prevent any confusion or hurt feelings with this sensitive topic. 

There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and people who are just starting to look into the process often aren’t sure what to look up or ask about. The word “surrogate” is widely known in reference to this topic, so many clinics and websites choose to use this to identify this method of building a family. Reproductive Health and Wellness Center aims to be as accessible as we can for our community. We hope to give people the information they are looking for and educate them in a way that is comfortable and easy to understand. That’s why you will see us using both terms when talking about this topic at times. This allows people who are looking for treatments online, or may not yet know about the specific differences between these terms to maintain an open dialogue with us while also building their knowledge around surrogacy. We hope you will reach out to us if you have any questions at all, whether you’re a prospective parent or have been thinking about using a surrogate, you can always reach us at (949) 516-0606 to speak with fertility specialists one on one or to book a consultation with Dr. Rosencrantz, go here.


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At Reproductive Health and Wellness Center, we are experts at treating fertility issues. We provide the latest in cutting-edge embryo science by using the latest technologies, and we create innovative fertility plans tailored specifically to each individual. But we’re so much more.

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