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Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogates: How They Differ

Surrogacy first made the headlines in 1985, when a surrogate named Mary Beth Whitehead attempted to gain custody of the baby she’d carried for Dr. Elizabeth and William Stern. Mrs. Whitehead provided both the egg and the uterus for “Baby M,” but ultimately lost custody.

As an adult, Baby M terminated Mrs. Whitehead’s parental rights. She also arranged to be adopted by the mother who raised her.

The drama that arose from that most famous surrogacy case engendered laws and policies that protect couples and singles who hire traditional surrogates and protect the privacy of their children, too. That first, bitter court battle improved and codified the traditional surrogate process for all involved.

In addition, since that time, advances in assisted reproductive technology (ART) have allowed a form of surrogacy called “gestational surrogacy.” A gestational surrogate carries a baby that’s not created with her egg, so she’s not genetically related to the child.

Surrogacy has vastly expanded the number of couples and singles who can now have a family of their own. In addition to helping infertile or medically challenged female/male couples, surrogacy also allows same-sex couples and gay men to have biological children.

At Columbia Fertility Associates, our fertility specialists offer both traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy so that you can grow the family of your dreams. Which type is best for you? Following is a brief guide to help you understand the differences and how they may apply to your individual case.

When you might need a traditional surrogate

If you can’t conceive or carry a baby to term yourself for either medical or biological reasons, you may need a traditional surrogate. A traditional surrogate provides both the womb and the eggs that are fertilized with your or your partner’s sperm.

You might consider traditional surrogacy if you:

  • Are undergoing or about to undergo cancer treatments
  • Have a genetic disease that could be passed on through your eggs
  • Don’t have a uterus or have uterine abnormalities
  • Don’t produce or have healthy eggs

A traditional surrogate is either artificially inseminated with your partner’s sperm or she undergoes in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IVF, she takes fertility medications that cause her to release more than one egg a cycle. We remove her eggs and fertilize them with the sperm of your choice in our lab. We transfer the resulting embryos to her uterus in another procedure.

The traditional surrogate carries the baby to term and surrenders the baby to you once it’s born. A traditional surrogate is genetically related to your baby. However, they don’t have any legal rights to the child.

Traditional surrogates must undergo extensive physical and psychological tests to ensure that they’re stable and understand the terms of surrogacy. They’re paid for their service and also receive all medical care related to the surrogacy and birth for free.

When you might use a gestational surrogate

A gestational surrogate also undergoes IVF and carries embryos that were created in a lab. However, a gestational surrogate doesn’t donate her own eggs. Instead, we create the embryos from your eggs or your partner’s eggs.

You may need a gestational surrogate if you:

  • Had a hysterectomy but still have ovaries
  • Have ovaries but can’t carry a baby to term
  • Have uterine abnormalities
  • Have had multiple miscarriages
  • Have a health condition that makes pregnancy risky
  • Prefer not to carry a baby to term

Like a traditional surrogate, a gestational surrogate must undergo a battery of physical and psychological tests to ensure that they’re healthy and stable enough to enter a surrogacy agreement. Although they carry the baby in their womb until delivery, they don’t share any DNA with the child. The child carries the genes of you, your partner, or both.

As with traditional surrogacy, you enter into a legal contract with your gestational surrogate that gives you full rights to the child she bears. She’s also paid a fee and all of her medical expenses related to the surrogacy and delivery are covered.

Even if you don’t have a uterus or eggs, you can still have a baby. Find out which type of surrogacy best matches your needs and the needs of your growing family by contacting our office nearest you today.