A widely misunderstood concept relating to surrogacy is the difference between traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. These words are mistakenly used interchangeably in order to describe a woman carrying a child for intended parents. How do you determine which one is correct to use?
Let’s start with traditional surrogacy, because it is the oldest form. In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother shares half of her genes with the baby. The other belongs to either the intended father or a separate sperm donor. Because only the intended father or sperm donor contributes half of the genetic material, the pregnancy can be achieve through what is called artificial insemination. This is a procedure that allows sperm to be inserted directly into the surrogate’s uterus to fertilize the surrogate’s egg. The surrogate will then go on to carry and birth the child.
Until relatively recently, traditional surrogacy was the only type of surrogacy available. It wasn’t until 1978 that a procedure known as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was developed, which allowed embryos to be created outside of the womb. In IVF, the eggs from an intended mother are cultivated and retrieved to be fertilized in a lab with the sperm from an intended father or sperm donor, and then placed inside the surrogate.
This advancement in reproductive technology led to the emergence and development of gestational surrogacy. Ever since the 1990s, gestational surrogacy has been the most popular choice among intended parents, and is now almost the only type surrogacy agencies will offer. Current statistical estimates suggest that 99 percent of all the world’s surrogacies are gestational, which leaves a small portion to traditional surrogacy.
As people started using IVF more and more, new terminology and labels were needed to distinguish between traditional surrogates and those who became pregnant through IVF. For about 20 years, surrogates have been referred to gestational carriers to set them apart in court from traditional surrogates. This helps alleviate the confusion of whether the surrogate contributed their own genes to the child, or are merely carrying the child for another individual. The use of “surrogate mother” in Baby M (1989), “gestational surrogate” in Johnson v. Calvert (1993), and “gestational carrier” in Hodas v. Morin (2004) shows not only the shift in the technology of surrogacy, but also a shift in the language of surrogacy.
So the term Gestational Carrier, or GC, was established for clarity and convenience. However, even though the popularity of surrogacy has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to celebrities becoming more open about their surrogacy experiences, many people are still unaware of this important distinction.
Today, some people still prefer the term gestational surrogate, or GS, because they feel the label comes off cold, and doesn’t capture the full surrogate experience, even though the carrier’s relationship with the baby, or babies, and the Intended Parents is a very personal one.
The question then becomes which is the correct surrogacy term to use, for which the correct response is: whichever makes you the most comfortable. Surrogate and gestational carrier are used without harm in most situations, except in legal circumstances. An intended parent or surrogate can openly discuss with each other their own preference. After all, it’s your surrogacy experience!
If you are interested in becoming a surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services, contact us now at (949) 363-9525.