As the practice of traditional surrogacy dwindles, and gestational surrogacy soars, the title “surrogate” is being stretched past its old constraints. Family building professionals, the media, and the surrogate community itself now use the term to refer to women previously described as “gestational carriers” or GCs.
Previously, “surrogate” was a label appropriate only for women who were the biological mother of the child(ren) they carried as part of a traditional surrogacy arrangement. In April 19856, the first “gestational carrier” gave birth to a child to whom she had no genetic link. Since that time, aided by the advancements of IVF, gestational surrogacy has seen a dramatic increase in both success and popularity, practically eliminating the practice of traditional surrogacy altogether.
This has naturally led to the adoption of the term, "gestational carrier", community and the near extinction of the concise title of “surrogate” title. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the most populous surrogacy community (that of non-biologically-involved surrogates, or gestational carriers) laid claim to the most popularized and recognizable title- that of "surrogate". To see the extent to which the GC community identifies with the label “surrogate” check out the hashtags #ProudSurrogate, #Surrogates, and #Surrogate on Instagram or consider the frequency with which the title is used by GC bloggers.
It is true that in the field of reproduction, whether it be a fertility law firm or an IVF clinic, one often hears the label "surrogate" being used to describe a woman who could be more accurately described as a "gestational carrier." At ConceiveAbilities, we use the word "surrogate" when referencing one of our gestational carriers. This shorthand in no way leads to any confusion. The staff, as well as all of our professional partners, are united in our meaning. Since no reputable US agencies deal with traditional surrogacy, there is a complete lack of “traditional” surrogates to which to refer.
Although some relevant professionals may still honor old labels, for clarity's sake, it appears that most popular US publications have little to no regard for the distinction. A quick survey will show that the majority of headlines that reference a “surrogate” are indeed stories about individuals involved in gestational surrogacy.
So it appears that the label “surrogate” is not so much “currently under construction” as it is “under new management” - adopted wholeheartedly by the GC community. One hopes that the general public has come along with us on this journey and that when a woman refers to herself as a “proud surrogate,” she is met with esteem instead of being asked how she “could ever give up her baby”.
That said, if the evolution of the label has led to more confusion, there is no other group alive who is up for a challenge like the surrogate community. Have you met these gals? They are unstoppable forces of good; totally exceeding any label, title or word that could possibly describe them.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.