Many times, a term such as “surrogate mother” is used in one way, when in fact, the term really means something else entirely. We are here to provide clarity and help you get a clear understanding of each of these terms.
What is a Surrogate Mother?
Traditionally, the term “surrogate mother” meant a woman who used her own eggs to become pregnant with a surrogate baby. Today, the majority of clinics work only with gestational surrogates, meaning a woman who carries the baby but does not use her own eggs in the process of conceiving the child. Because most clinics in the United States only work with gestational carriers, it’s easy to assume that is what they mean when they say “surrogate mother.”
But because of the potential for confusion, it’s important to always ask questions and to clarify before you commit to something that may turn out not to be what you thought. At Pinnacle Surrogacy, when we use the term “surrogate mother,” we always mean gestational carrier, as we do not work with traditional surrogates.
What is a gestational carrier?
A gestational carrier is just that…a woman who carries the baby that is created from the intended parents’ or donors’ eggs and sperm. An embryo, using either the eggs from an intended parent (or a donor) and sperm from the intended father (or a donor) is created in a lab through the IVF process, and that embryo is then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus to create a pregnancy. The surrogate (the gestational carrier) is not genetically related to the baby she carries, as her eggs are not used in the process.
Who can be a gestational carrier?
The requirements as to who can be a gestational carrier are straightforward. These requirements might seem a bit rigid, but they are there for the most important reason, to keep both our surrogates and the babies safe and healthy.
Gestational carriers are less than 40 years old if they are previous surrogates, and ideally less than 38 if they are going through the process for the first time. They must live in a surrogacy-friendly state and be healthy, both physically and emotionally, with no history of smoking or drug use, as well as no history of anxiety or depression (including post-partum depression). In addition, our gestational carriers must not have a criminal record, nor can anyone else in their household have a criminal record.
To be considered, our gestational carriers must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and be financially stable. And finally, they must have carried a healthy pregnancy to term and be raising at least one child.
Who can use a gestational carrier?
There are several categories of people who can take advantage of the gestational carrier process to build their families. Women of any age who cannot carry a pregnancy for any reason, such as a medical condition that renders them unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy, can turn to a gestational carrier. Single men or gay couples who want to be parents often find that a gestational carrier is an excellent choice and can become fathers with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate.
How does a gestational carrier get pregnant?
It’s natural to wonder how a gestational carrier becomes pregnant if she does not use her own eggs. The process is called IVF, which stands for in vitro fertilization. The term “in vitro” simply means a process of fertilization of the egg, which takes place in a culture dish outside a living person.
In the IVF lab, an embryo is created using the eggs from either the intended parents or a donor, and sperm from either the intended parent or a donor. The eggs, once fertilized, are grown in the lab to a certain state, and then the embryo is implanted directly into the gestational carrier’s uterus to create a pregnancy.
What is a traditional surrogate?
A traditional surrogate, who can also be known as a surrogate mother, is a woman who uses her own eggs to become pregnant with the surrogate baby. This means that the baby is in fact, biologically hers. Many states ban traditional surrogacy, but there are some states that do not have specific laws on the books either prohibiting or permitting traditional surrogacy. The following states explicitly permit compensated traditional surrogacy through state statute or case law: Florida, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Most surrogacy agencies and surrogacy clinics do not practice traditional surrogacy as this brings a significant legal and emotional burden to all parties involved in the process, and seems unnecessary when there is an option to use a gestational surrogate instead.
How does a traditional surrogate get pregnant?
A traditional surrogate becomes pregnant through a process known as IUI, which stands for Intrauterine Insemination. This is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. So the difference between IVF and IUI is that with IUI, the fertilization takes place inside the traditional surrogate’s uterus. If fertilization is successful, an embryo is created and implants itself in the surrogate’s uterus. With IVF, fertilization is accomplished in the lab, outside of the uterus.
Gestational surrogacy process
The process of gestational surrogacy involves multiple steps, which you should become familiar with, whether you are an intended parent or you want to become a surrogate.
At Pinnacle Surrogacy, the prospective surrogate will usually successfully complete medical and psychological testing before matching with the intended parent(s). This is different from most agencies, which will often start the screening process after the surrogate is matched with the intended parents. Each of our surrogacy candidates undergoes screening by a fertility specialist, a high-risk obstetrician, and a psychologist. We also do a home survey and meet the surrogate’s family as we want to be certain the home environment is absolutely safe, supportive, and nurturing.
Once the intended parents have had their consultation with one of our fertility specialists, our multi-step process begins, including getting access to our surrogate profiles, and a match meeting between the surrogate and intended parent(s) is arranged. Once the surrogate and the intended parent(s) match and reach an agreement on working together, legal contracts are drawn up by each party’s respective attorney.
After the legal contracts are in place, the embryo transfer can be planned. A Pinnacle Surrogacy representative will accompany the surrogate to all of her fertility appointments where possible. If the intended parent(s) are not able to attend an appointment, we will arrange video participation or provide feedback in a timely manner. For a detailed look into the process of surrogacy, please see more information here.
Pinnacle Surrogacy is there for both our surrogates and intended parents(s) every step of the way in their surrogacy journey. This means we stay in close contact with the surrogate throughout the pregnancy and also assist with all obstetric appointments. Our surrogates continue to have monthly support meetings with a psychologist to be sure their emotional needs are met. In addition, our surrogates receive nutritional counseling plus weekly the delivery of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the pregnancy.
Surrogates at Pinnacle Surrogacy
Although you may see different terms used throughout our website, such as surrogate, surrogate mother, or gestational carrier, here at Pinnacle Surrogacy we only work with gestational surrogates. As we have explained, gestational surrogates do not contribute their own eggs to the fertilization process and are not genetically related to the baby they carry.
Start Your Surrogacy Journey
If you are considering becoming a surrogate or having a baby using the surrogacy process, we are here to answer your questions and to support you right from the start. You can find more information on surrogacy here and we also have a dedicated section for surrogates as well as a section for intended parents on our website, that both provide plenty of useful information around the requirements, process, costs or surrogacy, surrogate compensation, and more.
If you are ready, you can apply to become a surrogate through our online application form here.