Gestational Carrier vs. Surrogate: Understanding the Difference

ConceiveAbilities - The Differences Between Traditional and Gestational Surrogacy.

Family building opportunities have come a long way in a short period of time, and surrogacy is the option that seems to spark the greatest interest. With that comes an exciting opportunity to learn more about this very special means of creating a family – but it can also leave room for confusion.

To help set the record straight, we’ll explain the process as well as the difference between gestational carriers and other types of surrogacy.

What is a gestational carrier?

The most common form of modern surrogacy is achieved with a gestational carrier. This is a woman who undergoes in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination and carries an embryo that was created with the intended mother or donor’s egg and the intended father or donor’s sperm.

The gestational carrier is not genetically related to the child; this is very important to note from not only a legal standpoint but also an emotional one.

What is a traditional surrogate?

A traditional surrogate, on the other hand, is the biological mother. This typically means the child is conceived traditionally or through artificial insemination (AI) using the father or sperm donor’s sperm.

What is the difference between a gestational carrier and a traditional surrogate?

A traditional surrogate is the biological mother, while the gestational surrogate is not. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s eggs are combined with donor sperm, while in gestational surrogacy, both sperm and egg are donated (or provided by the intended parents).

Because gestational surrogacy does not involve a genetic link, it has become a far safer and more popular means of starting or growing a family.

The difference between a gestational carrier and a traditional surrogate also explains the difference between IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) and IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). In IVF, the egg is harvested from the donor or intended mother and fertilized outside of the womb. In IUI, sperm cells are deposited in the surrogate’s uterus. The IUI cost is relatively inexpensive compared to IVF, a tradeoff for a far riskier and less successful means of pregnancy.

The Gestational Surrogacy Process

After a series of medical screenings, a surrogate prepares for implantation. To harvest eggs for surrogacy, the intended mother or egg donor undergoes an egg retrieval. Embryos are created using these eggs and the intended father or donor’s sperm then transferred to the gestational carrier’s uterus.

It is not recommended to attempt an AI pregnancy with a surrogate using her own eggs due to the underlying emotional and legal implications. If the surrogate is also the biological mother, there is a much greater risk to all parties – she could have legal grounds to challenge custody or could, conversely, be left with medical and financial responsibility. Some clinics are not comfortable managing traditional surrogacy arrangements, and in many locations, traditional surrogacy is completely outlawed.

Anyone considering surrogacy must have a solid understanding of the differences between a previous pregnancy and a surrogate pregnancy. She must be fully educated on what is involved, both medically and legally, and have a solid support system throughout this unique commitment.

Surrogacy and the Law

Surrogacy laws in the United States can vary widely from state to state and are always evolving. New York state, for example, outlaws traditional and gestational surrogacy while Washington recently passed gestational surrogacy-friendly laws for the first time. In states where surrogacy is not supported or the law is unclear, intended parents may have to go through an adoption process to gain custody of the child. In other states, pre-birth orders called “declaration of parentage” allow intended parents to be declared the legal parents from the start.

It is imperative that all contracts and agreements are given a careful legal review by lawyers experienced in third party reproduction and reproductive rights. Our legal team will guide your journey to provide a better understanding of the legalities around gestational surrogacy in your state and ensure the protection of everyone involved. To learn more about the law in your own state, visit our state-by-state surrogacy law guide.

Cost Considerations for Surrogacy

Although the cost of traditional surrogacy is often less than that of gestational surrogacy, additional legal fees and medical costs may arise due to the added risk. The gestational surrogacy cost can range anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000. Due to the nature of the process and, of course, the unknowns related to any pregnancy, it’s difficult to predict if there will be extraneous expenses. A high-risk pregnancy involving bed rest may require higher compensation; insurance, hospital bills and neonatal care are other cost variables. The most reputable surrogacy agencies have experience managing these aspects so that the intended parents can focus on bringing their baby home. Check out how ConceiveAbilities’ policies line up with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's (ASRM) guidelines.

The Differences Between a Traditional Surrogate vs. a Gestational Carrier

Key Differences

Table with key differences between Gestational Carrier vs. Surrogate

The surrogacy process is complex, but working with a gestational carrier can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved. You can learn more about gestational surrogacy here, and if you’re ready to start your journey please contact us!