The Medical Process

Is the Baby Related to the Surrogate Mother?

Surrogacy is a fairly new method of building families, which means that intended parents and surrogates alike often have many questions before starting this process. Perhaps one of the most common is, “Do surrogate mothers share DNA with the baby?”

If you’re considering becoming a surrogate, this question should be important to you. After all, you may not be comfortable with the idea of carrying a baby you’re related to, only to give that baby to intended parents once you successfully deliver. Therefore, before you start this process, you will want to know whether a surrogate mother is genetically related to the child she carries — with the answer determining what is the right path for you.

Fortunately, in most surrogacies today, a baby does not get any genetics from a surrogate mother, thanks to a process called gestational surrogacy.

What is Gestational Surrogacy?

Gestational surrogacy is a process through which a prospective surrogate is not genetically related to the baby that she carries. Instead, an embryo is created with the sperm and egg of the intended mother and father, or with a combination of donor sperm or egg, if needed. When the embryo is implanted in the surrogate, it is already complete and, therefore, a surrogate mother does not pass on DNA to that baby.

Most surrogacy professionals today will only complete gestational surrogacies — so, if you work through a surrogacy agency or fertility clinic, know that a baby is not related to the surrogate mother in your personal surrogacy journey.

Why People Ask This Question

If most surrogacies today are gestational, why do people continue to ask, “Is the baby related to the surrogate mother?” when they’re learning more about surrogacy?

This question often harks back to the beginning of the modern surrogacy process. Early on in the history of surrogacy, assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization was not available, which means that surrogacies could only be completed through traditional methods — either through sexual intercourse between the intended father and surrogate, or through artificial insemination. Even when in vitro fertilization became possible, it wasn’t until a couple of years after its inception that doctors began using the intended mother’s egg to create an embryo for implantation into a surrogate’s uterus.

Therefore, when people ask, “Does a surrogate mother share DNA with the baby?” it’s usually because they are thinking about this kind of traditional surrogacy — especially if they do not know that gestational surrogacy even exists. The lack of knowledge about modern surrogacy techniques is the reason why these questions are still so prevalent today, even decades after gestational surrogacy started to become popular.

Why Gestational Surrogacy is the Norm Today

So, why isn’t the baby related to the surrogate mother in most surrogacies today? Wouldn’t a traditional surrogacy be an easier and cheaper option for many intended parents?

While the medical process of a traditional surrogacy may be more straightforward, traditional surrogacy actually comes with many additional complications that can put intended parents, surrogates and babies born via surrogacy at risk. It’s these complications that inspired many surrogacy professionals to ban traditional surrogacy from their services in the first place.

One of the inherent problems with traditional surrogacy is that the baby is related to the surrogate mother — which means that the surrogate has automatic parental rights to the baby she is carrying. Therefore, she not only has the legal right to sue for custody of the child sharing her DNA, but the emotional considerations of this fact can make the process much more complicated for all involved.

Take, for example, one of the earliest controversial cases of traditional surrogacy: the case of “Baby M.” In 1984, when a traditional surrogate gave birth to the intended parents’ baby, she refused to sign over her parental rights, initiating a complicated, lengthy custody battle. The surrogate eventually retained her parental rights to the baby and, while the baby was placed in the custody of her biological father (the intended father), the surrogate still had visitation rights. The emotional and legal complications of this case deterred many surrogacy professionals from ever completing traditional surrogacies again.

Today, in modern surrogacies, you do not have to use your own eggs to be a surrogate mother — which is an important step in protecting you during the surrogacy process. If you are considering becoming a traditional surrogate, or your intended parents ask you to complete a traditional surrogacy, it’s strongly advised that you speak with a surrogacy professional and do diligent research before making this decision. It’s rare that this is the right path for a prospective surrogate — and it’s only one that should be taken with extreme caution.

So, if you’re asking, “Does a surrogate share DNA with the baby she carries?” know that the answer in most cases will be “no.” To learn more about the genetic relationships in modern surrogacy, we encourage you to contact a surrogacy agency or a fertility specialist for more details and answers to your questions.

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