Understanding the Terminology of Gestational Surrogacy

Once you have chosen to create your family through a surrogate, there are things you will want to know in order to better understand the next steps of the process. The first is learning the terminology of gestational surrogacy.

What is a Gestational Carrier?

There are different types of surrogates or gestational carriers. For instance, in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially inseminated using the intended father’s sperm, or that of a sperm donor. She agrees that when the child is born she will relinquish her parental rights and allow the child to be raised by the intended parent(s). This procedure has one main advantage: it is less expensive than in vitro fertilization (IVF).Otherwise, IVF carries a much higher success rate than artificial insemination.

Gestational surrogacy, on the other hand, utilizes embryos created through IVF with one intended parent’s genetic material and that of the other intended parent or a donor. This means that the embryo that is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus has no biological or genetic connection to the surrogate. She then carries the baby to full term and relinquishes the child to the intended parent(s) upon delivery.

The Gestational Surrogacy Cycle

Once you have chosen your surrogate, the process of “cycling” begins. This is the procedure during which embryos are created via IVF through the combination of egg and sperm, and are then implanted within a surrogate, followed by a pregnancy test 10-12 days later. We call this an embryo transfer, or sometimes just “transfer” for short. If the transfer is not successful, you will wait an average of two to three more months before the next embryo transfer, after which time the process may be repeated. However, many intended parents have remaining embryos from the first cycle. The doctor will try to create as many embryos as possible, transfer an agreed upon number, and then freeze the surviving ones. If this is the case for you, then the next attempt will very likely be a frozen embryo transfer (FET).

Ovum Donation

The process of egg or ovum donation is when a young woman, known as an egg donor or ovum donor, provides her eggs to assist intended parents who require donor eggs in order to conceive. Though you often get photos of the egg donor, along with health and education information, the process is conducted anonymously, to protect and maintain the privacy of the donor and intended parent. Using an ovum donor age 30 years or younger can greatly increase your chance of conceiving a pregnancy. For more information on national IVF statistics regarding egg donation, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) page at http://www.cdc.gov/ART/.

While it is probably safe to say that all egg donors get great satisfaction out of helping another person create a family, anonymous donors are compensated for their efforts on average $10,000 to $12,000 per donation. In addition to that is usually an agency fee ranging between $7,000 to $8,000. When budgeting for egg donation, be sure to ask the agency with which you are working to create an estimate of the anticipated expenses of your donor and your personal situation. For instance, if your doctor is in Los Angeles, but your donor lives in New York, you will want to factor in travel costs and remote medical monitoring expenses. Getting accurate budgets from the beginning can help to eliminate unnecessary stress in the future.



Updated 7/17/18

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.