What is Surrogacy?

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  • Written By: Cathy Rogers
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 27 March 2019
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Surrogacy is an arrangement between a woman and a couple or individual to carry and deliver a baby. It is a controversial process that is not legal in all states. The surrogate mother is also known as a gestational carrier. In many cases, the process is an expensive, time consuming, and emotional one. Women or couples who choose this path often do so because they are unable to conceive due to a missing or abnormal uterus, have experienced multiple pregnancy losses, or have had multiple in vitro fertilization attempts that have failed. The advantage of the gestational method to the parents is that the embryo is created from the woman’s egg and the man’s sperm, so it is biologically theirs.

The surrogacy arrangement is sometimes made through an agency and other times contracted privately. When searching for a woman to carry their child, a couple might use the Internet, contact an agency, or network through friends and family. Arrangements are sometimes made between strangers who never meet, or between persons who meet only occasionally through the process. An arrangement might also involve persons whose lives become intertwined during the process, and even those who are family members or friends before entering a surrogacy arrangement.


In gestational surrogacy, the embryo is implanted in the woman through in vitro fertilization. The woman carries the baby to term, then gives up the child and signs over parental rights at birth. Usually, the couple pays legal fees, agency fees if applicable, and a fee to the carrier. If the carrier does not have health insurance that covers prenatal care and delivery, the couple would most likely pay those costs also.

Disadvantages of surrogacy include the possibility that the carrier will change her mind about giving up the rights after birth. Some couples also worry about legal issues. There might also be differences between the couple and the carrier regarding medical, nutritional, or testing issues.

The success rate of surrogacy cannot be determined because it is dependent on many factors. The first successful gestational surrogacy took place in 1985. Other forms of this process have existed since Biblical times.

The issue was highly publicized when the "Baby M" court case was presented in New Jersey in the mid 1980s. In this custody case, the surrogate mother declared she was unable to fulfill her contract and turn over the child she carried to the intended parents. Initially, the court ruled for the intended parents and gave them custody. Later, the carrier mother regained some parental rights and was granted parental visitation.


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Post 10

Surrogacy involves several legal issues which is why it is not legal in all states. Couples with medical problems such as infertility choose to do the treatment overseas. To start with, couples do a thorough research before the treatment (e.g. they research for only the best surrogacy clinic in Mexico) through medical tourism providers.

According to surveys, couples who seek treatment overseas are satisfied with the quality of treatment that they receive.

Post 9

@allenJo - That's a good question. I have read that the fee given to surrogate mothers for their services is somewhere around $20,000, depending on where they live and other things.

But, then there are all the other fees, such as medical preparation for the pregnancy, medical care during the pregnancy and the birth. Also there are legal fees, testing and whatever other expenses are in the contract. The total cost could end up being many thousands of dollars. Wow!

Post 8

Parents, you all really need to be careful when you're looking for a surrogate mother -- and use common sense! My sister and her husband went through a lot of heartache with their surrogate, so I try to tell everybody I know the things they learned.

The first step, matching parents with surrogate mothers, can involve different approaches. Parents may find a match with a close family member or friend. They may look for a surrogate mother through an agency. Or, parents might look through online classifeds and newspaper ads. No matter where one looks for a surrogate mother, always have a lawyer available every step of the way -- believe me, you really don't want to go through any potential hassle without legal counsel.

Post 7

The process of surrogacy is very complicated. Morally, I think it is good, as long as everyone involved is honest, unselfish, and loving.It is a good choice for those couples who have tried other ways to have a child, but with no success. Because the child is related biologically to the parents, the adjustment may be easier than with adoption.

There is always the possibility of legal problems anytime during the process, but most states have some surrogacy laws to solve disagreements.

Post 6

@allenJo - Surrogacy costs vary from state to state, but from what I understand, you’re easily looking at tens of thousands of dollars once you’ve paid all of the necessary fees.

Some women in California are turning it into a nice business allowing them to stay at home while rediscovering the joys of childbirth once again.

Post 5

What are the costs of surrogacy? Does anybody know?

Post 4

The state of California has the most favorable surrogacy laws for couples seeking to go this route. Courts have usually upheld the intended parent’s right to custody of the child (as opposed to the gestational parent’s). Further, children born this way are given all of the protection that the state offers for children born any other way. In other words, in California, a family is a family, whether created through surrogacy or the old-fashioned way.

I suppose the only problem is the ethical concerns raised when doctors make a business of the practice, and wind up with a trail of failed attempts. Is it worth risking the death of so many fetuses to produce one healthy baby? Those issues will continue to be debated, but it is certainly legal in California either way.

Post 3

Yes, this kind of thing does indeed go back to the Bible. It was when Sarah couldn’t conceive and said to Abraham to produce a child through their maid, Hagar. He did so, and Ishmael was born.

We see the problems of traditional surrogacy from this first known case in Biblical history. Ishmael and Isaac (who was later born through Sarah) became enemies. Also, Hagar became despised in the eyes of Sarah and this resulted in jealousy, with Hagar being kicked out of the house, more or less.

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