What Is a Surrogate Mother?

In the landscape of assisted reproduction, the term “surrogate” carries profound significance, symbolizing a bridge between hope and reality for individuals or couples facing challenges in building their families.

Let’s unravel the layers of the surrogate meaning and explore the essence of what it means to be a surrogate.

Surrogate Mother Definition

Understanding the term “surrogate mother” is fundamental to gaining insight. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a surrogate mother is defined as “a woman who agrees to become pregnant in order to give the baby to someone who cannot have children.”

what is a surrogate mother

What Does Surrogate Mother Mean?

In simpler terms, a surrogate mother is a compassionate woman undertaking the journey of pregnancy on behalf of those unable to experience it themselves. This explanation captures the selfless and compassionate essence of what it means to be a surrogate.

This kind and caring act goes beyond just biology. It connects families in a unique way. Surrogates, with their kindness and selflessness, leave a lasting impact on the lives they touch.

Historical Context of Surrogacy

Surrogacy has a long history, dating back to ancient times when surrogates would help others have children within their communities. However, the modern concept began emerging in the mid-20th century and gained attention in the 1980s with advancements like in vitro fertilization (IVF). The 1980s also brought legal challenges, notably the Baby M case, highlighting the need for clear regulations.

Initially, most women served as traditional surrogates. Since then, surrogacy has evolved with technological progress, notably the success of procedures like IVF, making gestational surrogates the most common type.

Despite growing acceptance, debates continue, emphasizing the ongoing need to discuss surrogacy’s ethical, legal, and social dimensions in our changing world.

Exploring Surrogate Types

Surrogacy can follow various paths, each with its distinct features. Understanding the different types of surrogacy is crucial for both intended parents and surrogates, as it influences the biological relationship between the surrogate and the child, as well as the overall dynamics of the surrogacy journey. Here are the main types of surrogates:

Traditional vs Gestational Surrogate:

  • Traditional SurrogateIn traditional surrogacy, the surrogate uses her own egg to conceive the child. This means she is genetically related to the child.
  • Gestational Surrogate: In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate carries an embryo that is created using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors. The surrogate is not genetically related to the child.

Compensated vs. Altruistic Surrogate

  • Altruistic Surrogate: Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation. Their primary motivation is to help others.
  • Compensated Surrogate: In compensated surrogacy, the surrogate receives financial compensation for her time, effort, and commitment.

Each surrogacy journey is unique, shaped by the intentions, relationships, and circumstances of those involved.

Detailed guide: How to become an Independent Surrogate Mother

Benefits and Challenges

Being a surrogate is like riding a rollercoaster, full of good and tough moments. For these incredible women, surrogacy is a chance to help others start a family. Surrogates embark on a journey where the happiness of assisting intended parents in creating a family becomes their primary motivation.

The Positives:

Feeling Empowered by Empathy: Surrogates experience a powerful feeling of strength by assisting intended parents in their journey to parenthood.

Creating Long-lasting Connections: Some surrogate mothers find joy in forming lasting bonds with the families they help, building a unique connection through shared experiences.

The Challenges:

Dealing with Emotional Complexities: Managing the emotional complexities of carrying a child for another family can be challenging, needing a solid support system.

Ensuring Legal Protections: Ensuring legal safeguards, rights, and clear agreements becomes crucial to handling any unexpected situations during the surrogacy journey.


In the world of assisted reproduction, a “surrogate” is a symbol of hope for those struggling to start a family. This term signifies a compassionate connection between those facing family-building challenges and individuals willing to help. Simply put, a surrogate mother is a kind woman undertaking pregnancy on behalf of those who can’t. This act creates lasting bonds between families, leaving a meaningful impact on all involved.

what is a surrogate

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Written by David
I work daily to make surrogacy available to as many intended parents, surrogate mothers and egg donors around the world as possible.

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