What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a way of conceiving a child, in which a woman (a ‘surrogate’) carries a pregnancy for someone else (the ‘intended parents’) who are unable to carry the pregnancy.

Surrogates do not typically describe themselves as surrogate ‘mothers’ because they do not view themselves as mothers of the children they help bring into the world. 

Gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy


A gestational surrogate (sometimes called a host surrogate) is not biologically related to the child she carries. Gestational surrogates conceive through IVF at a fertility clinic, where an embryo (created with an egg from an egg donor or from the intended mother) is transferred to her uterus.

A traditional surrogate (sometimes called a straight surrogate) conceives with her own eggs and so is biologically related to the child.  Traditional surrogates may conceive at home through artificial insemination using the intended father’s sperm, or through fertility treatment (artificial insemination or the transfer of an embryo created with her eggs) at a clinic.

In the UK, both traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy are common and the law treats them both in the same way.  In most overseas countries which support surrogacy, gestational surrogacy is typical and often the only type of surrogacy which is legally recognised.

There is no evidence that traditional surrogates are frequently more emotionally attached to a surrogate child than gestational surrogates or less likely to surrender the baby on birth.  However, it is always very important for any potential surrogate to think through what type of surrogacy she feels most comfortable with, and it is important for everyone to think through the long term implications for all involved (including the child conceived and the surrogate’s existing children).

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Related articles

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Where in the world is surrogacy allowed?

What is the difference between altruistic and commercial surrogacy?

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