What Are the Different Types of Surrogacy?

How many types of surrogacy are out there? Which is right for you?


Most people think that there is only one form of surrogacy. In fact, there are many. It becomes even more challenging when surrogates and intended parents find out that some types of surrogacy are allowed in certain countries, while others are completely forbidden.

Surrogacy is a complex assisted reproductive procedure that can be done in several ways. Each of which has direct consequences on who will be genetically linked to the baby and the relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate mother.

Different Types of Surrogacy

Essentially, there are two main categories of surrogacy: traditional/genetic surrogacy, whereby the surrogate mother is directly impregnated by the intended father (usually via artificial insemination); and gestational surrogacy, whereby the embryo is created through IVF and then transplanted into the surrogate. These two main categories have a number of distinct sub-varieties; each varying depending on how exactly the embryo is created. There are also distinctions to be drawn between altruistic and commercial surrogacy; agency and independent surrogacy; or domestic and international surrogacy. Find out more about each of the surrogacy types in this article.

Basically, there are two main types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy

Gestational vs. Traditional Surrogacy

Gestational vs. traditional surrogacy is the most widely used classification. These two surrogacy types are each, in turn, divided into sub-types: gestational surrogacy can be divided into four sub-types while traditional surrogacy in two, so there are six different types of surrogacy arrangements:

types of surrogacy

Gestational Surrogacy:

When the intended mother cannot carry a baby to term, but her eggs and the intended father’s sperm are used to create an embryo (via an In Vitro Fertilization process – IVF) that will be transferred and carried by the surrogate mother (also called gestational surrogate). With this procedure, the child born is genetically tied to his/her parents and not to the gestational carrier as her eggs are not used during this process.

Gestational Surrogacy & Egg Donation:

If there is no intended mother involved in the process (i.e. gay couples) or the eggs of the intended mother cannot be used, the gestational surrogate carries the embryo developed from a donor egg that has been fertilized by sperm from the intended father. With this process, the child born is genetically tied to the intended father (or one of the Ifs in gay couples), and the gestational surrogate has no genetic relation.

Gestational Surrogacy & Donor Sperm:

If there is no intended father involved in the process (i.e. lesbian couples) or the intended father is unable to produce sperm, the gestational surrogate mother carries an embryo created from the intended mother’s egg (who is unable to carry a pregnancy herself) and donor sperm. With this scheme, the baby born is genetically tied to the intended mother, and the gestational surrogate has no genetic connection.

Gestational Surrogacy & Donor Embryo:

When the intended parents are unable to produce sperm, egg, or embryo, the surrogate mother can carry a donated embryo (often from other couples who have completed IVF that have leftover embryos). With this process, the child born is not genetically tied to the IPs, and the gestational surrogate also has no genetic link.

gestational surrogacy

Traditional Surrogacy:

This sort of surrogacy involves artificially inseminating a traditional surrogate with the intended father’s sperm via intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF or home insemination. With this process, the baby born is genetically linked to his/her father and the surrogate mother.

Traditional Surrogacy & Donor Sperm:

This involves artificially inseminating a traditional surrogate mother with sperm coming from a donor via IUI, IVF or home insemination. With this technique, the baby born is genetically linked to the sperm donor and the surrogate mother.

Altruistic vs. Commercial Surrogacy

Surrogacy agreements can also be classified, from an economic point of view, into two forms of surrogacy. What is the difference?

traditional surrogacy

Altruistic surrogacy:

In this form of surrogacy, a woman becomes surrogate without any financial benefit. Nevertheless, in this kind of surrogacy, even if it’s not done for profit, it’s customary that the expenses related to pregnancy are reimbursed by the intended parents. As a result of the restrictions of altruistic surrogacy, it usually takes longer to find qualified surrogates. Altruistic Surrogacy can apply to both genetic and gestational surrogacy.

Please note that this type of surrogacy is the only one allowed in some countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Commercial Surrogacy:

In commercial surrogacy, a woman becomes a surrogate mother in return for certain monetary payment or reward. Typically, commercial agreements contain generous compensation for the surrogate mother.

Commercial surrogacy is legal in the United States, Ukraine, Greece, and some eastern European countries; however, there are many countries with clear surrogacy regulations that forbid commercial surrogacy. To learn more about commercial and altruistic surrogacy arrangements, the regulation related to reimbursements and how the Courts deal with this subject in your country, please get in touch with a reputable lawyer, specialized in reproductive law.

Domestic vs. International Surrogacy

Another aspect that creates a new classification of “types of surrogacy” is where the process is done. Surrogacy is an Assisted Reproductive Technique that can be done around the world. However, in many countries, surrogacy is not allowed, so depending on where the intended parents live, the process can be categorized into one of the following forms of surrogacy: domestic surrogacy and international surrogacy.

If their home country allows surrogacy normally, it’s easier to complete a domestic surrogacy. However, for intended parents who live in a country where surrogacy is not legal; pursuing an international surrogacy (in a country like Canada or the United States) can be the only option.

Whether you live in the United States or Canada or elsewhere, you need to understand if surrogacy is allowed where you are. Even within the United States and Canada, some states and provinces are surrogacy-friendly and others are not. And aside from whether it is permitted, it is important to know your ability and the legal process. If you are going to participate in the surrogacy process, it is also important to understand the related regulation in your home country.

Agency vs. Independent Surrogacy

Finally, surrogacy can be classified depending on which professional intended parents and surrogates choose to help them complete their process. You may have the option to choose between two forms of surrogacy: agency surrogacy and independent surrogacy.

Agency surrogacy is a surrogacy process in which the intended parents and surrogate work with a surrogacy agency. A surrogacy agency is a professional service that arranges and oversees procedures, from recruiting and screening potential surrogate to arranging clinical procedures or legal services.

On the other hand, independent surrogacy (also known as private surrogacy or Indy surrogacy) is a process in which the intended parents and surrogate mother decide not to work with a surrogacy agency and they only work with a family attorney and an IVF clinic to complete their surrogacy journey.

Surrogacy is a big choice, and every piece of information will help you feel more comfortable with the journey. This post is designed as an early starting point to better understand the different types of surrogacy.

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Written by Carrie
Registered nurse (RN). My passion for surrogacy began back in 2011 when I felt a strong desire to carry a baby for someone who otherwise wouldn’t achieve their dream of becoming parents
1 Comment
  1. I was not aware that there are so many types of surrogacy!

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