What Is a Surrogate Mother?

Who is a Surrogate Mother?

A surrogate mother is a woman who carries a child or children for another person.  The surrogate mother may carry for an individual or a couple that they have met through the help of a third party surrogate agency, an online forum or a personal friend or family member.  Many surrogate mothers are compensated for their personal time and sacrifice during the surrogate arrangement, this is referred to as compensated surrogacy.

There are two types of surrogate mothers; traditional and gestational.  A traditional surrogate mother is biologically related to the child that she carries and a gestational surrogate mother is not.  Due to medical advances, gestational surrogate arrangements are preferred and are more common today.

Traditional Surrogate:

In the late 1700’s, a Scottish-born surgeon named, John Hunter impregnated a woman during her natural ovulation cycle using her husband’s sperm; resulting in a successful pregnancy.  This technique is now known as Artificial Insemination.

A traditional surrogate is a woman who agrees to become pregnant using her own ovum/eggs for another person through a medical procedure known as Artificial Insemination (AI or IUI).   The sperm is provided by either the intended father or a sperm donor and is safely inserted into the traditional surrogate mother’s uterus during either her natural or medically enhanced ovulation cycle with the assistance of a physician.  A traditional surrogate mother is biologically related to the child she carries and gives birth to.

Gestational Surrogate:

In 1978, a hospital in Great Britain welcomed the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first  “test tube” baby born through a medical process known today as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

A gestational surrogate is a woman who agrees to become pregnant for another person through a process called In-Vitro Fertilization.  A gestational surrogate mother is not biologically related to the child. Embryos are created within a laboratory using the ovum/eggs of either the intended mother or an egg donor and the sperm of either the intended father or a sperm donor.  The ovum/eggs are retrieved from the woman’s body through a medical procedure called an egg retrieval.  The mature eggs are then fertilized with the sperm provider’s sperm, creating an embryo.  Afterward, the embryos are then safely transferred into the uterus of a gestational surrogate mother with the assistance of an IVF Physician.

Legal Comparison:

In other countries and within the United States, many states do not recognize traditional or gestational surrogate arrangements and will recognize the surrogate mother as the legal parent until a full adoption is completed after the surrogate mother gives birth to the child.  However, in the State of California, a woman who enters into a proper legally represented traditional or gestational surrogate mother arrangement and gives birth within the State of California, can relinquish her biological and legal rights to the child or children and appoint the intended parent or intended parents as the rightful and legal parents before the child or children are born.  For this reason, California is often referred to as the most “surrogate friendly” State.  Prior to the surrogate mother becoming pregnant a legal surrogate agreement between the intended parents and the surrogate mother will be signed, reflecting the surrogate mother’s intent to become pregnant for the intended parent or intended parents.  During the surrogate pregnancy, a third party reproduction attorney will complete a legal process referred to as the “parental establishment process”.  Once this process is completed, the intended parent will be provided a certified Pre-Birth Order (PBO) approved by the State of California which will allow them to be listed on the US birth certificate as the rightful and legal parent once the child or children are born; an adoption will not be necessary.

Although California recognizes both traditional and gestational surrogate mother arrangements, many intended parents prefer gestational surrogate arrangements to assist them in creating or enhancing their families.  Gestational surrogate arrangements allow intended parents the opportunity to have a child that is biologically related to them and take full advantage of numerous IVF medical advances.  Over the years, SAI has proudly seen these medical advances help people from all over the world who have struggled with infertility for many years or been led to choose third-party reproduction assistance in order to achieve their dream of having a family.

When is the assistance of a Surrogate Mother needed?

An individual or a couple may choose a surrogate mother to assist them in building or expanding their family for various reasons such as:

  • Diagnosed or unexplained infertility (see common terms below)
  • Medical conditions preventing a woman from carrying a pregnancy without risking her own life
  • Loss or absence of reproductive organ
  • Hysterectomy (uterine loss)
  • Antibodies
  • Repeat miscarriages
  • Failed own IVF and IUI cycles
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Sterility
  • Tubal Ligation or Vasectomy
  • Blood disorders
  • Heart conditions
  • Genetics (choosing to avoid passing genetic traits/conditions to their child)
  • Gender selection preferences
  • Failed or denied adoption


Do you still have questions? Head on over to our surrogacy board to ask and get answers to all your questions!