Families have two primary surrogacy options: a gestational carrier or a “traditional” process. We’re here to help break it down.

No two families are exactly alike. They all have different dynamics, traditions and histories that make them unique. For many, those histories include a very special origin story: their children were brought into the world with the help of a surrogate. There are different types of surrogacy agreements, and the one you embark on will depend on a number of circumstances, including local laws and legislation.

Surrogacy agreements can either be commercial (compensated) or altruistic (voluntary) and are generally dependent on location. Another important distinction about surrogacy is traditional versus gestational.

Most American agreements are gestational, as traditional surrogacy is banned in much of the country and the world. While both agreements involve a third party carrying a baby for an intended family, the two procedures are very different. That major difference stems from one very important aspect: eggs.

Traditional Surrogacy: Meaning and Information

In traditional arrangements, a surrogate has used her own eggs and is, therefore, biologically related to the baby she carries.

There are several reasons why families are drawn to traditional agreements. In many ways, it feels more straightforward; there is no need for intended parents to search for an egg donor or undergo a procedure to retrieve their own. With traditional surrogacy, the intended mother will not have any medications to take or egg retrieval procedures to undergo. Though she will still undergo some fertility treatments ahead of her pregnancy, there will be less preparation for the surrogate as well.

Traditional surrogacy is also significantly less expensive than gestational. Traditional agreements save costs on retrieval procedures and egg donor fees. Conception itself is also less expensive with a traditional agreement; IVF treatment is not necessary. Instead, traditional surrogates conceive through IUI or intrauterine insemination.

While traditional surrogacy has a less involved procedure, emotionally, it can be very complicated. For this reason, traditional surrogacy is not a very common option these days. It’s illegal in many states, and the few locations that don’t forbid traditional surrogacy have many restrictions and regulations surrounding the procedure. Furthermore, it can be difficult to find a willing traditional surrogate.

Gestational Surrogacy: Meaning and Information

Despite having a higher cost and a more complex process, gestational surrogacy is by far the more commonly used choice of the two types. It is largely preferred by both families and surrogates alike, as there are fewer complexities that come with a traditional carrier.

Gestational surrogates undergo IVF (in-vitro fertilization) in order to carry a baby for the intended parent(s). The implanted embryo will be from the intended father’s sperm or a sperm donor and an egg of either the intended mother or a chosen egg donor. That egg will have been retrieved from the donor or intended mother through a medical procedure.

Gestational surrogacy is popular and legally supported in most US states. This route, while complex, offers the most protection to everybody involved: intended parents, the baby, and surrogates.

Surrogate vs. Gestational Carrier: Is There a Difference?

The distinction between surrogate mother vs. gestational carrier depends on context. Gestational carriers can also be considered surrogates. However, surrogates proceeding with a “traditional” arrangement cannot be considered gestational carriers. This term is reserved for surrogates entering a gestational agreement only.

Surrogacy Agreements: Contractual Nuances Between Traditional and Gestational

One of the most crucial parts of the gestational surrogacy process is the legal contract, though this is not the case for traditional surrogacy.

Following matching and medical clearance, gestational surrogates and intended families must work with their respective attorneys to draft a legal contract. This contract covers every nuance of a surrogacy agreement, including a birth plan for delivery day. This protects all parties involved.

Parental Rights: Traditional Surrogacy vs. Gestational Agreements

One of the most essential parts of a gestational surrogacy contract is legally establishing parentage. Typically, an attorney helps intended parents develop a pre-birth order during the legal drafting period of their process, enabling parents to take their baby home straight away.

With traditional agreements, the surrogate is the baby’s biological parent. This is where parental rights can become more complicated. If your family chooses to enter a traditional agreement, we highly recommend working with a lawyer to make sure your parental rights are protected.

The Surrogacy Experience: Comparing the Journey for Surrogates and Intended Parents

Gestational surrogacy is a rewarding and exciting experience for everybody involved. While both parties often work as a team, they will have different experiences and processes.

Surrogates either choose their own OB/GYN or see someone selected by intended parents. Once a surrogate undergoes IVF, she will visit her fertility specialist for bloodwork and other tests to determine if the embryo transfer was a success. When a pregnancy is confirmed, the surrogate will stay on track with her OB/GYN visits.

Being pregnant as a surrogate is much different than being pregnant with one’s own children. There may be more doctor visits and monitoring than before. Plus, intended parents often have specific requests of their surrogate during pregnancy, like an all-organic diet.

Future Implications: Long-Term Considerations in Choosing Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy

When it comes to choosing how to build your family, the decision is ultimately a personal one. We cannot tell you in an article if gestational or traditional surrogacy is a better choice for your family as we don’t know your circumstances. And surrogacy and reproductive law are also tricky to navigate. We strongly recommend careful consideration of the relevant factors before entering a traditional agreement.

Many traditional surrogates struggle with the emotional impact of relinquishing parental rights due to biological ties with the baby. Not only is this painful for surrogates, it can lead to legal complications and challenges in the future.

Some gestational surrogates might also struggle with complicated feelings. This is why a strong support network is so important. We have great LMFT contacts to help our surrogates process their experience on their terms.

Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy: What Has a Better Success Rate?

There are no major differences between traditional and gestational surrogacy when it comes to success rates. However, studies have implied that traditional arrangements are more likely to have a negative impact on surrogates’ mental and emotional well-being. For this reason, most surrogacy agencies only facilitate gestational agreements—including ours.

If you have any more questions about the legal requirements of surrogacy, please contact our team. We have been facilitating smooth and successful gestational surrogacy agreements for nearly two decades! We have all of the experience and contacts to support you during this exciting time. Thank you for including us in your story.