What Is Gestational Surrogacy?

by | Oct 2, 2021 | Fertility 101, Resources

How to begin the surrogacy process

While researching fertility treatments, you may have seen options for surrogacy – but what is “gestational” surrogacy? This article will discuss the details and process of gestational surrogacy, as well as how to start your journey.

What Does Gestational Surrogacy Mean?

Pregnancy requires an egg, sperm, and a uterus. In some cases, an intended parent or intended parents may not be able to provide each of the needed elements. When a uterus is needed, a person called a gestational carrier can carry the pregnancy and deliver the baby on behalf of the intended parent(s).

Gestational Surrogates Are Not Related to the Babies They Deliver

Patients are sometimes confused about how gestational surrogacy works, because of the history of surrogacy. Before fertility technology developed sufficiently, surrogates typically became pregnant through intrauterine insemination (IUI). The sperm came from the intended father or a donor, but the surrogate conceived with their own egg. This meant the surrogate had a genetic connection to the resulting child. A result, this method of surrogacy (now called “traditional surrogacy”) could lead to legal and emotional challenges regarding parental rights and the surrogacy agreement.

However, as fertility treatments advanced, another surrogacy option became available. The development and improvement of in vitro fertilization (IVF) meant that clinics can develop embryos in labs using eggs and sperm from the intended parents and/or a donor, and then transfer them to a uterus to implant and become a pregnancy. With this technology, surrogates – more accurately known as “gestational carriers” – can carry a pregnancy without providing an egg. This means they do not have a genetic connection to the child. Gestational surrogates also do not have any legal parental rights to the babies they carry. Gestational surrogacy quickly replaced traditional surrogacy as the most common surrogacy method. Today, most fertility clinics (including PNWF) only provide gestational surrogacy.

Who Uses Gestational Surrogacy?

Gestational surrogacy may be an option for any individual or couple who is unable to carry a pregnancy, for any reason. These include:

  • Single intended parents with sperm (also requires a donor egg)
  • Gay cis male couples (also requires a donor egg)
  • LGBTQ+ couples where neither partner is able or wishes to carry a pregnancy
  • Straight cis couples where the female partner is unable or does not wish to carry a pregnancy

The Gestational Surrogacy Process

All fertility journeys begin with an initial fertility evaluation. From there, if you wish to pursue surrogacy, the next step is finding a gestational carrier. At PNWF, we work with several different surrogacy agencies to help you find the right fit. Most intended parents meet with a few potential surrogates to find the best connection. Next, you will work with your surrogate agency, the surrogate, and a surrogacy lawyer to create a legal surrogacy agreement. This document lays out details such as compensation and communication, and serves to protect everyone involved in the surrogacy.

Once you’ve completed the legal details, your fertility clinic will develop embryos using eggs and sperm from you, your partner, and/or donors. You can choose to genetically test the embryos before the transfer. During the transfer, a doctor will carefully insert a mature embryo into the gestational carrier’s uterus, where it will hopefully implant and develop into a pregnancy. Once the surrogate conceives, they usually receive prenatal care and deliver at the hospital of their choice. Depending on your surrogate agreement, you may attend milestone prenatal appointments such as the first ultrasound. After delivery, you can take your new baby home and begin your family’s life together.

For more information on the gestational surrogacy process for intended parents, read our article here.

PNWF Provides Expert Gestational Surrogacy Care

Through our Center for Collaborative Reproduction, we have a dedicated team to coordinate gestational surrogacy procedures and logistics. We understand the complex details and considerations involved in surrogacy, and have years of experience providing surrogates and intended parents alike with high quality, compassionate fertility care.

To begin your journey, contact us today.