Gestational vs Traditional Surrogacy: Which is Right For You?
Surrogacy has become a practical option to achieve the dream of parenthood but it can be hard to know if it’s right for you. Although the popularity has increased over the years, many are still confused by the terms and options available to them. Gestational surrogacy vs traditional surrogacy is often the first hurdle to cross on your journey. Whether you want to become a surrogate or add to your family, it’s important to know what these terms mean. There is a difference between the different types of surrogacy and these differences can have legal, not to mention cost, implications. Understanding your options and what’s involved with each is key before starting the process.
In this post we’ll break down what surrogacy is and what the different types involve. We’ll compare gestational surrogacy vs traditional surrogacy and even go over the costs associated with this path to parenthood. Whether you’re considering surrogacy or not, we’ll go over when it might be the best option for you, and other things you can try before choosing surrogacy. Whatever path to parenthood you go down, it will be as unique to you as the baby you hope to have!
What is surrogacy?
Strictly speaking, surrogacy is when another woman carries and delivers a baby for another person or couple, who will then become the child’s parents. It is usually governed by a legal arrangement and is considered a form of assisted reproductive technology. Legal arrangements vary by jurisdiction and there may or may not be monetary compensation involved. The types of surrogacy include traditional and gestational which are distinguished by the genetic origin of the egg. There are many reasons why someone might choose surrogacy that include (but are not limited to) when pregnancy is medically impossible, there are dangerous pregnancy risks for the intended mother, or as an option for a gay man or couple.
Many people are confused by the variety of terms used in surrogacy. There is a difference between a surrogate and gestational carrier. These definitions are important for both legal and medical reasons. Success rates and costs vary greatly depending on your location and situation, not to mention the health of the surrogate. Generally speaking, the odds are favorable once a surrogate is actually pregnant, but the time, effort, and cost it takes to get there can vary greatly. Keep in mind that surrogacy isn’t a guarantee of pregnancy and the usual issues can arise, including complications and even miscarriage.
Traditional surrogacy may also be referred to as “full” or “genetic” surrogacy. In this arrangement, the carrier is biologically linked to the baby because the surrogate is also the egg donor. This means that in addition to carrying the baby, the surrogate mother is also the baby’s biological mother. The carrier is either impregnated through assisted reproductive techniques like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) or natural insemination (ie. sex). The sperm to fertilize the egg can come from a donor or the intended father and it is expected that once the baby is born the traditional surrogate signs her parental rights away.
Traditional surrogates tend to be less expensive; however, these arrangements are often considered more high-risk because of the genetic ties to the baby. Since the surrogate mother is also the biological mother, they could potentially have a claim to custody and/or visitation should they wish to seek that in court. This is just one of the reasons for having a solid legal agreement in place that outlines the responsibilities of each party. Every jurisdiction has different legalities surrounding surrogacy, but there are limited legal protections for intended parents and even though many have been completed without issue, there is the potential for complications.
The process for becoming a traditional surrogate looks different than gestational surrogacy. The legal aspect depends on your jurisdiction but there may be additional steps to take to establish parenthood for the intended parents and it can cause delays. Since the surrogate is also the biological mother of the child, their parental rights need to be terminated after the baby is born, and the intended parents need to establish themselves as the adoptive parents. Unfortunately this can cause delays in the process where emotional complications, like the surrogate becoming attached to the baby, can jeopardize the process.
Emotional complications for traditional surrogacy are a real concern since almost anyone will feel an attachment to the baby they are carrying. Although this is natural, the emotional bond may make it difficult for the surrogate mother to hand over the baby, regardless of what has already been agreed upon. Although there are other differences, this is one of the main differences between a surrogate and a gestational carrier. The gestational carrier has no biological attachment to the baby and subsequently no legal claim to parenthood.
Gestational surrogacy is an arrangement whereby the pregnant individual carries and delivers a child for the intended parents or parents. The baby is not biologically related to the carrier (ie. surrogate mother). In a gestational surrogacy arrangement a fertilized egg is implanted into the surrogate mother via IVF. IVF is required since the egg comes from another biological woman and is implanted into the carrier. The egg will need to be fertilized in a laboratory and the resulting embryo(s) will be transferred to the uterus of the gestational surrogate. Biological material may come from one or both of the intended parents, or donor material may be used as well. Either way, there is no genetic connection to the gestational surrogate and the surrogate is simply the carrier of the fertilized embryo.
After a successful transfer of an embryo(s), a gestational surrogate carries the pregnancy and gives birth much like a traditional pregnancy. This is the most common form of surrogacy since it has more legal protections for the intended parents, and in fact many agencies do not provide services related to traditional surrogacy due to the issues that can arise. Although the gestational surrogate is technically the birth mother, the biological mother’s egg was the one fertilized.
The process for gestational surrogacy involves legal agreements and arrangements that spell out the role of each party and establishes legal parental rights. Depending on the jurisdiction, an order is made before the baby is even born that protects the intended parents legal right to the child. From a legal standpoint, gestational surrogacies are the most attractive option because the surrogate is not biologically linked to the child and therefore has no legal claim to the child.
Many of the terms surrounding surrogacy are often used interchangeably but there is a difference between a surrogate and a gestational carrier. A surrogate typically shares a genetic link to the child whereas a gestational carrier does not have any biological connection and simply carries and delivers the child for someone else.
How much does surrogacy cost?
When it comes to surrogacy, the costs can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors unique to your situation. Gestational surrogacy vs traditional surrogacy can have very different costs associated with them. Traditional surrogacy tends to have lower costs since expensive rounds of IVF are not usually needed. But medical costs are not all that’s involved and with traditional surrogacy there is the potential for higher legal costs if any difficulties arise with establishing parenthood.
In terms of how much gestational surrogacy costs, there are many things to consider. It’s impossible to give a clear estimate of the cost since it varies widely around the world. Costs to consider may include:
- IVF retrieval
- Psychological evaluations
- Medical screenings
- Carrier reimbursement (depending on jurisdiction)
- Egg donation
- Legal fees
- Legal parentage documents
- Life insurance
- Agency fees
If you’ve done any research online for how much gestational surrogacy costs you’ll know that it can vary widely. Most experts agree that the average cost of surrogacy in the United States can range from $100,000 to $200,000, but this is highly dependent on individual factors. International surrogacy can be considerably less expensive but involves other details that may contribute to the cost like finding a reputable agency and travel. In the end, the cost of surrogacy can vary depending on how many procedures it took for a successful transfer as well as other factors like surrogate compensation and legal fees.
When is surrogacy an option?
The option to consider surrogacy is not one taken lightly. Many factors are involved and they are as individual as the baby that will be born. For people with uteruses, surrogacy may be an option because of medical problems with your uterus, or you may have had it removed. You may have a condition that makes pregnancy impossible or risky, or you may have tried to get pregnant through assisted reproductive techniques and have been unsuccessful. Surrogacy is also a viable option for those who are unable to adopt, or are unable to carry a pregnancy due to age.
Surrogacy has become an increasingly popular LGBT fertility option as well. Lesbian, gay, and transgender couples all face different challenges in their path to parenthood and surrogacy provides them the option to have a child of their own.
Pursuing surrogacy can be a complicated decision with many factors at play. If you’ve struggled to get pregnant in the past, you may be doing your research to plan ahead. If you haven’t tried fertility tracking, it may be an option for you before traveling down the surrogacy path. Our ovulation kits and fertility products can help streamline the process and may even put you on your own path to parenthood.