Surrogacy 101

Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional Surrogacy

Did you know that there are two main paths you can take when you become a surrogate — one in which you’re not related to the child you carry, and one in which you are the genetic mother of the child you carry?

That’s right — when you become a surrogate, you will have to choose between gestational and traditional surrogacy. Both paths offer their own advantages and disadvantages, and there is no “right” option. There is just the option which is right for you.

Choosing between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy is a big deal, and it should not be a decision that you make without thorough research and before talking with a surrogacy professional. In the meantime, start your research process with this article, which dives into the details you need to know of gestational surrogacy vs. traditional surrogacy.

What is the Difference Between Gestational Surrogacy and Traditional Surrogacy?

As mentioned above, there is one major difference between gestational and traditional surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, a woman is not genetically related to the child she carries. In traditional surrogacy, she is.

With the advance of reproductive medicine, gestational surrogacy is by far the most common surrogacy option for intended parents and carriers today. But, it wasn’t always this way. In the past, traditional surrogacy was much more common. A surrogate would either be artificially inseminated to conceive or have her eggs harvested for the in vitro fertilization process.

Today, though, gestational surrogacy is much more common for intended parents — many of whom have remaining embryos from previous infertility treatments. For them, having a woman carry that embryo is the natural next step in their family-building process after other treatments have failed.

While there are many other nuances that contribute to the difference between traditional and gestational surrogacy (discussed below), this genetic connection is the main separation between these two processes. It’s also the most important one to consider if you are thinking about being a surrogate.

The Legal Difference Between Traditional and Gestational Surrogacy

If you’re thinking about carrying a child for someone else, odds are that you’re considering gestational surrogacy. It’s a good option — in fact, it’s the most popular option for prospective surrogates in the United States today. Often, this is because of the safer legal path that gestational surrogacy offers both surrogates and intended parents.

You see, in many places throughout the United States, traditional surrogacy comes with many legal risks for intended parents. Because a surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, she often has inherent rights upon the birth of the child. Even if she is able to create a legal contract with intended parents for their arrangement, she may still need to go through a mandatory waiting period before she can sign over her parental rights — because her surrogacy will most likely be treated as a legal adoption, granting her all the rights of any prospective birth mother. And, a traditional surrogate often has a protected right to the child should she decide to change her mind about placing the baby with the intended parents.

Gestational surrogacy, on the other hand, prevents these risks. Because a woman is not genetically related to the child she carries, a parentage order can often preemptively establish the intended parents’ rights to their child. A gestational surrogate has no rights to keep the child that she delivers, which is why gestational surrogacy is the norm for intended parents in the U.S. today.

The Emotional Difference Between Gestational and Traditional Surrogacy

Legal differences aren’t the only thing to consider about traditional vs. gestational surrogacy. With the genetic connection to a child comes an increased risk for emotional complications.

Every woman who becomes a surrogate enters into the process with the knowledge that she is only “babysitting” for the intended parents. But, when a woman shares a genetic connection with the child she carries, she is more likely to experience conflicting emotions during her pregnancy and after she gives birth.

A traditional surrogacy can also be difficult for an intended mother, who may experience feelings of jealousy toward her surrogate. This can make it hard for her to develop a genuine relationship, which is so crucial to the success of a surrogacy.

Because of these emotional complications, as well as the legal restrictions on the process, many surrogacy agencies will refuse to complete traditional surrogacies for their clients.

The Financial Difference Between Gestational and Traditional Surrogacy

Finally, there’s another aspect of surrogacy that may be different when it comes to gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy: a surrogate’s compensation.

It’s common practice for a gestational surrogate to receive a base compensation for her services. This often averages around $30,000. However, compensation within the confines of a traditional surrogacy is more complicated. Because a woman is genetically related to the child she carries, receiving “payment” for placing the child with intended parents can be legally risky — and even completely illegal.

If you are considering being a traditional surrogate, be aware that you may not receive the same amount of compensation that you would as a gestational surrogate. It’s a good idea to speak with a local surrogacy attorney to learn more about this topic and other legal differences between traditional and gestational surrogacy.

Ultimately, the choice between gestational and traditional surrogacy will always be up to you. Because it’s such an important decision, don’t hesitate to reach out to local surrogacy professionals for more information and guidance. Only then can you make the best decision for you — and move forward with helping create a family!

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