What Is Surrogacy: Definition and Meaning

What is surrogacy? What does it mean? The answer to these questions will be based on how surrogacy touches a person. What surrogacy means and represents to intended parents and surrogate mothers will depend on their own experiences. For each person, surrogacy’s meaning can be different, and also, it can differ from a legal and process point of view.

What Is the Definition of Surrogacy?

Let´s start with the basic definition:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines surrogacy as “the practice by which a woman (called a surrogate mother) becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children.”

Nevertheless, within that basic definition, there are different ways to understand it. Depending on how surrogacy affects a person, what it means to them will change.

What does Surrogacy mean for Intended Parents?

Prospective parents look at this method of assisted reproduction as their last option for having a biological child. These people tend to spend thousands and thousands of dollars going through IVF and fertility treatments, before realizing that their last option to have a biological child is through surrogacy. This move, from infertility to surrogacy, is a really big step.

At that point, discovering that they will need a surrogate mother to carry their baby and become parents can be an extremely emotional choice. Why? Because this process can give them the parenthood experience they have been dreaming about, however, it won’t allow them the pregnancy experience they may have wanted.

People who are childless or have problems getting/staying pregnant are often looked down upon. For them, this assisted reproductive technology is the way for them to break the shame and stigma that comes from not having children.

This form of assisted reproduction means prospective parents can finally realize their dreams of having a complete family. It’s a gift that a selfless woman gives to some intended parents who, otherwise, are unable to have their own child or children.

How Do Intended Parents See Surrogacy?

  • A totally exhaustive psychological and medical screening process.
  • A challenging process of finding the right surrogate mother.
  • Sharing the joys of the pregnancy the surrogate mother is going through.
  • Key milestones such as doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, and childbirth.
  • The happiness of bringing their newborn home.

This journey creates an intimate bond between the surrogate and the intended parents. After all, the surrogate helps them to have their family while the intended parents forge a lasting, honest bond with the surrogate.

Surrogacy definition

What Surrogacy Means for a Surrogate Mother

Surrogacy can be altruistic or commercial and even if a commercial process is pursued, surrogacy goes beyond money. Many surrogate mothers do it to help a childless couple or individual become a family. It’s a selfless act to commit their time, effort, and body to help the intended parents. Some surrogates do it because they love the feeling of being pregnant, even when they have their own family established. For them, it’s a sense of achievement and pride, as well as bonding with their intended parents.

How Do Surrogate Mothers See Surrogacy?

What does it mean to become a surrogate mother? There are several steps to this process, such as:

  • Going through in-depth psychological and medical screenings.
  • Deciding the amount of the surrogate mother’s compensation.
  • Meeting with intended parents to find the right ones.
  • A sense of responsibility for carrying a child for someone.
  • Pregnancy Risks and Side Effects.
  • Childbirth process.

Surrogacy comes across as a complicated process, but it’s one that many surrogates are glad to undertake. Each surrogate’s surrogacy meaning will be different and it will be based on her own experience, which is why a prospective surrogate mother must know about the pros and cons of the process before committing to it.

What is surrogacy

What Surrogacy Means to the Rest of the World?

How people see surrogacy now could and will change in time.

Ever since the surrogacy process began, it’s been a controversial topic, though it´s a common option for intended parents (after dealing with infertility or same-sex people) to create their family.

With more children being born out of the surrogacy process, how surrogacy is seen is going to change. These children will see that their parents went through a challenging process to ensure they were born. The story of their birth will be a matter of pride for them and their children. They’re bound to share their stories with others, leading to more and more discussions about this process. The only surefire way to raise awareness of this process is to understand it and then educate others about it.

What Traditional and Gestational Surrogacy Mean?

When it comes to the types of surrogacy processes, there are two main types:

Traditional Surrogacy (TS):

In Traditional Surrogacy – The surrogate is artificially inseminated with the man’s sperm, carrying the baby and delivering so the intended parents can raise it. As a traditional surrogate, the surrogate is the baby’s biological mother, as it was her egg that the father’s sperm inseminated. Of course, donor sperm may also be used.

Gestational Surrogacy (GS):

Gestational Surrogacy is based on the in vitro fertilization technique, where the intended mother’s eggs are fertilized with the intended father’s sperm and the embryo put inside the womb of the gestational surrogate (also an egg donor and/or sperm donor may be used). The surrogate, who has no genetic connection with the child, will carry the baby until the day of birth. A gestational surrogate (also known as a gestational carrier – GC) is known as a birth mother. The biological mother is the one whose egg is combined with the sperm to fertilize the egg.

surrogacy meaning

What Surrogacy Means from a Legal Point of View?

Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby a woman (called a surrogate) agrees to become pregnant and deliver a baby for someone who cannot have children (called intended parents). However, even if the definition is not complex, the legal aspects surrounding this process are challenging and surrogacy laws differ widely from one country to another in two main aspects.

  • Are surrogacy agreements enforceable, void or prohibited?
  • What is the parental rights recognition process for the intended parents (pre-birth order, post-birth order or adoption)?

One would assume that a surrogate mother has no legal recourse to an intended parents’ baby. However, parental rights after a surrogate mother gives birth are not always guaranteed. Still, the law is trying to catch up with reproductive technology and changing the way “parent” is defined.

As it currently stands, in the US there are no federal laws regarding surrogacy and state laws can vary significantly. Some states require intended parents to go through the adoption process to attain legal custody of their child. With other states, the intended parents must make a “declaration of parentage” before birth, so they don’t have to go through the adoption process. In Canada, a federal law (AHRA) governs surrogacy. However, each province has its regulations creating differences in the process and legal requirements.

Prospective parents should employ the services of an attorney experienced in reproductive law to help them protect their rights to the child. This attorney can draft the surrogate contract to ensure each person’s role is laid out. The contract can be used to address any legal issues that could arise after the child’s birth. It also deals with potential issues that could occur during the pregnancy such as dealing with multiple babies, children with disabilities, etc.

When you hear the word “surrogacy”  relating to delivery and pregnancy, you can be quite sure the surrogacy definition that applies is the first one of this post, however, it’s not so straightforward to answer ” What is surrogacy? ” because, as you can see, the meaning can vary depending on how this process affects individuals.

The following websites provide additional information for people interested in pursuing a surrogacy journey:

  • ASMR – American Society for Reproductive Medicine
  • AAAA – American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technologies

Share This Post
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.