Surrogacy can be a complicated topic to learn about, so one of the best places to start is the definition of surrogacy. While there are many different aspects of surrogacy that can be defined, it’s often easiest to start with the basic definition provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
According to the dictionary, surrogacy is “the practice by which a woman (called a surrogate mother) becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children.”
In general, this is accurate — but because there are so many aspects of surrogacy that are crucial to understand, there are some other important surrogacy definitions that all prospective surrogates should know. Remember, because every surrogacy is different, the way that people define surrogacy in their own terms by what it means to them will likely be unique as well.
To familiarize you with all of the aspects that can affect an intended parent or surrogate’s definition of surrogacy, we’ve listed a few of the important surrogacy definitions you need to know below.
First, the Different Parties to a Surrogacy
Surrogacy will mean something different to each party involved, and it’s important to understand who these parties are to grasp the full definition of surrogacy. After all, if you’re considering becoming a surrogate, it’s important to understand what role you’ll play in the surrogacy process.
In general, here are the parties that are typically involved in a surrogacy:
- Surrogate: The surrogate is the woman who chooses to carry a baby for intended parents. She is usually between the ages of 21 and 35, has carried a successful pregnancy before and is already raising a child. Most surrogates can also be called “gestational carriers” (more on why below).
- Intended Parents: The intended parents are those who are hoping to have a child via surrogacy. Whether they are single or a couple, they have usually already created an embryo (with their own sperm and egg or with a donor gamete) that will be transferred to the uterus of the surrogate.
- Surrogacy Agency: An agency is a surrogacy professional that guides both intended parents and surrogates through the many steps of a successful surrogacy journey. Surrogacy agencies usually provide case management services and emotional support throughout all the challenges and rewards of the surrogacy process.
- Surrogacy Attorney: A surrogacy attorney ensures that a surrogacy process is legal. He or she will help draft and negotiate a legal surrogacy contract to protect the rights of the party he or she represents. Both the intended parents and the surrogate should have their own independent surrogacy attorney.
- Fertility Clinic: A fertility clinic, also known as a surrogacy clinic, completes the embryo transfer and other important steps required in the medical surrogacy process.
- Egg or Sperm Donor: If the intended parents cannot create an embryo with their own sperm or egg, they will use a donated egg or sperm cell. In a traditional surrogacy, this egg donor is the surrogate herself.
The Different Types of Surrogacy
The surrogacy definition also varies depending on the particular type of surrogacy process you are completing. When you’re considering becoming a surrogate, there are several decisions you’ll need to make in regards to creating the perfect surrogacy journey for you.
There are several ways to define surrogacy:
- Gestational Surrogacy: The most common surrogacy path, gestational surrogacy is a surrogate pregnancy in which the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby she carries.
- Traditional Surrogacy: In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is related to the baby she carries, and has either donated an egg to the IVF process or undergone a process like intrauterine insemination.
- Commercial Surrogacy: Commercial surrogacy is also known as “compensated surrogacy” because the surrogate receives a base compensation for her services.
- Altruistic Surrogacy: In an altruistic surrogacy, on the other hand, the surrogate’s surrogacy- and pregnancy-related expenses are covered, but she does not receive any base compensation.
- International Surrogacy: An international surrogacy can occur when a surrogate or intended parents are located outside of the United States. For a prospective surrogate like yourself, an international surrogacy occurs when your intended parents live in another country.
There are several other aspects that will factor into how you personally define surrogacy in your journey, and your surrogacy professional will guide you through every choice available to you before you move forward. You will always have the choice to create a surrogacy journey that meets your personal surrogacy needs and goals.
Other Definitions of Surrogacy
“Surrogacy” is not just a word that applies to the medical process of bringing a child into the world; it’s also a word that designates someone as the assistant of another or someone who does something in their place.
To avoid confusion when you hear the word “surrogate,” you should familiarize yourself with these other ways that the word can be used:
- Political Surrogate: A political surrogate, also known as a campaign surrogate, is someone who acts on behalf of a candidate running for office. They usually appear at events on the candidate’s behalf or use their influence to bolster the image of a candidate.
- Health Care Surrogate: A health care surrogate makes health care decisions for a person who cannot make the decision themselves and is often a friend or relative of the person in medical distress.
- Legal Surrogate: This is another term for a health care surrogate.
Clearly, there are many ways you can define surrogacy but, if you’re thinking about the medical process of surrogacy, it’s important to focus in on the surrogacy definitions that are most important to your personal journey as you proceed. It’s a good idea to speak with an experienced surrogacy professional to learn more about all the intricacies of the surrogacy process before starting your personal surrogacy journey.