All About Surrogacy

Surrogacy is the process where a woman or a couple makes an arrangement with another woman to carry and deliver a child for her or them. There are three types of surrogacy: traditional, gestational and commercial.

In traditional surrogacy the surrogate woman is the child's genetic mother. In gestational surrogacy the surrogate woman has no genetic relationship to the child she is carrying and carries a transferred embryo to term. Commercial surrogacy is an arrangement where the surrogate is paid to carry the child. Payment is in excess of reasonable medical and other pregnancy-related expenses. A commercial surrogacy is sometimes called an altruistic surrogacy. It is illegal in the UK.

Choosing Surrogacy

Women or couples who choose to have a child through a surrogate usually do so if either one or both have a medical condition that makes it either dangerous or impossible to carry a child to term and give birth.

In most cases it's a medical condition in the woman that prevents a traditional pregnancy. These conditions could include repeated pregnancy loss, no uterus or a malformed uterus, or repeated failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts.

Other Divisions in Types of Surrogacy

The types of surrogacy are often divided into traditional, gestation or commercial as described earlier. Sometimes they're also described as full surrogacy or partial surrogacy.

Full surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo using an embryo created from donor sperm or eggs, implantation of an embryo using a donor egg fertilized with sperm from the father, or implantation of an embryo created from the eggs and sperm of the intended parents. Full surrogacy has also been described as host or gestational surrogacy.

Partial surrogacy is the same as traditional surrogacy, which can also be called straight surrogacy. This is where the egg is fertilized with the sperm of the intended father. There rarely are sexual relations between the surrogate and the intended father and insemination is done artificially or by intrauterine insemination (IUI).

The Success Rate

Any woman or couple considering surrogacy will naturally want to know the success rate and how likely it is that they'll have a baby after the process. Doctors say it's difficult to determine the success rate but there are some factors that can affect the outcome.

You won't necessarily know if the surrogate will be able to get pregnant. But if she does, her age can play a factor in whether the pregnancy will go to term. Older women, even if the embryo is not genetically related to her, can have a harder time carrying a healthy baby to term.

If an egg donor is involved, the age of the donor is relevant. Typically eggs from younger women are healthier with a lower risk of genetic problems. The overall success of the artificial reproductive technologies used also determines if there will be a healthy baby born at the end of the process.

The Risks

The type of surrogacy undertaken will impact the potential risks. Often the physical risks are greater to the surrogate who might need to undergo fertility treatment or who might be infected with hepatitis or HIV in the extremely rare case where proper donor screening isn't completed.

For the couple who need the surrogate, the emotional risks are high. There's always concern about whether or not the procedure will end in the birth of a child. There are concerns about the health of the child. Sometimes there are financial concerns since the couple making the arrangement is often responsible for the expense of prenatal care for the surrogate.

It's important to make sure all legal papers are signed to reduce the risk of a surrogate changing her mind and fighting to keep the child she has carried for 40 weeks.


It is illegal to pay a surrogate in the UK, but the intended parents are required to compensate the surrogate for reasonable expenses including loss of pay, clothing and medical care. You may also be required to pay clinic surrogacy fees.


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