What is a Surrogate Mother?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A surrogate mother is a woman who carries a fetus for someone else, usually a couple struggling with fertility issues. After the child is born, the surrogate surrenders it to the people who have hired her. There are various forms of surrogacy, some of which have been used historically, while other are more modern.

A surrogate mother carries a fetus for someone else, such as a person or couple dealing with infertility.
A surrogate mother carries a fetus for someone else, such as a person or couple dealing with infertility.

One form of surrogacy, traditional surrogacy, involves using artificial insemination to impregnate the surrogate mother. This technique is often used when a woman is physically unable to bear children, but she still wants to have children with her partner. In this case, the partner donates sperm, or sperm is secured from a third party if he is infertile as well, and the surrogate contributes half of the required genetic material. This type of surrogacy has been around for centuries, although it was not widely discussed until the twentieth century, since some women felt ashamed because they could not bear children.

A surrogate mother carries a fetus for someone who is battling fertility issues.
A surrogate mother carries a fetus for someone who is battling fertility issues.

Modern surrogate arrangements usually involve gestational surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, the couple commissioning the surrogate mother donate both eggs and sperm. The egg is fertilized in a test tube, and then implanted into the surrogate. In this case, she acts almost like an incubator, carrying the child to term for a woman who is unable to do so.

In some areas, payments to a surrogate mother are banned.
In some areas, payments to a surrogate mother are banned.

There are some legal and ethical issues bound up in surrogate motherhood, since it is a sensitive issue. Until the 1960s, surrogacy was usually carried out by a friend or relative, as a favor to someone in need. In the 1960s, European couples began contracting with third parties, setting up surrogacy agreements and sometimes compensating the surrogate for her trouble. In 1976, the first formal surrogacy arrangement was set up in the United States, and within a few decades, surrogacy had become socially acceptable.

In some areas, payments to a surrogate mother are banned. This decision was made when sociologists began to observe that the bulk of surrogates were working class women, and the couples requesting surrogacy were in the upper classes. Some concern was raised that women were essentially selling their bodies, and this thought made some people uncomfortable. However, the couple requesting surrogacy is still expected to bear the medical expenses of the surrogate, and gifts are usually considered acceptable even if payment is not.

Several legal cases have challenged the surrogacy system, primarily when surrogate mothers refuse to surrender infants after they are born. In most instances, the surrogate loses the court battle, even if she is the child's natural mother. Most contracts spell out the terms of the arrangement, in the hopes of avoiding such a situation.

A surrogate contract also usually spells out expectations for the surrogate's behavior during the pregnancy. For example, surrogates are expected to attend pre-natal appointments, and they are usually asked to refrain from smoking, drinking, and doing drugs. In addition, a surrogate mother should eat well, take prenatal vitamins, and follow other pregnancy precautions to ensure that the child is healthy when it is born.

The relationship between a surrogate mother and the couple who commissions her can vary widely. Some couples grow friendly with their surrogates, and they may even on rare occasions invite the surrogate to be a part of the child's life as it grows up. In other instances, couples prefer to retain more distance with their surrogates. For couples considering surrogacy and women thinking about entering a surrogate arrangement, meetings to discuss everyone's expectations before proceeding are an excellent idea.

Surrogate mothers can help couples struggling with fertility issues.
Surrogate mothers can help couples struggling with fertility issues.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Surrogacy is a wonderful thing and many women should choose this option because they will at least have a child genetically related to their spouse, unlike with adoption.

A gestational surrogate mother will have no genetic attachment to the child, making it less of her baby. She simply is, as the article said, "an incubator, carrying the child to term for a woman who is unable to do so."

In many states in the U.S., there are laws now stating that women has to be financially stable and the money is not the motive. The surrogate mother has to also have had experiences birthing children before she can do this for someone else.

In my opinion, this is the best option for women unable to have children because she will love and care for that child like its her own and isn't that what is best for the child?


There's always the chance that the surrogate mother will die in childbirth.


i don't think a surrogate mother is the best way to solve the problem because it will cause a lot of problems, especially the lineage and descent of the child.


I like the idea of becoming a surrogate mother, I can imagine how it feels to want something and not able to get it. However the contract terms is what people should watch out for and ensure that what is best for the child is what should be done.


I'm not sure it's a good idea. possibly it works for some people, but if the surrogate wants her baby back, who knows what she will do. also there's always the chance of the man's partner not taking to the child as it's not really hers. it's a difficult situation.


It all started with news that Sir Elton John has a surrogate child, surrogate child! It kept confusing me. What does it mean?

I have contracted one internet site to the other but this simple, rich and straightforward article has answered all the questions about surrogate children I had. Thanks and keep it up. --Sam


this is the very good article. please tell me some more information about this and the surrogacy centers in india.


Surrogate mothers: it's great. keep it up.


I'm a student currently studying surrogate mothers. I'm doing a research about this topic and i really need help about it so i hope that i could get more information about surrogacy. thanks.


the article is so really good.this does help couples who are infertile.surrogate mothers are really great.bearing someone's kid for their happiness is something like doing the best.i sincerely request all the couples who are right now having a surrogate child to maintain an intimacy with their kid's natural mother.all surrogate mothers jai ho for what you are doing.


I became a surrogate mother about 6 months ago, and our second attempt just came back positive. I believe this article is very accurate, and I encourage women who can be a surrogate to do so. It is such a rewarding experience to be part of creating a life, and making a couples dreams come true. Just hearing how excited my couple was the other day, was worth everything I've gone through and will go through. I can only imagine how blessed I will feel, when they see their child, or possibly children for the first time. Sincerely, very honored and blessed Surrogate Mother.

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