The main difference between gestational and traditional surrogacy is simple: in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s eggs are used, making her the biological mother of the child she carries; in gestational surrogacy, the surrogate has no biological link to the baby.
While this distinction may be simple, it has several implications that prospective intended parents should take into consideration when comparing traditional surrogacy vs. gestational surrogacy. If you are unsure which type of surrogacy is right for you, here are some of the primary differences between traditional and gestational surrogacy
- Egg Donor: In gestational surrogacy, an egg donor may be used to create the embryo the surrogate carries. Same-sex couples, single men, and heterosexual couples and women who cannot produce healthy eggs commonly require the assistance of an egg donor in gestational surrogacy. Egg donation is not required in traditional surrogacy because the surrogate uses her own eggs, essentially acting as both the egg donor and the carrier.
- Medical Procedures: Gestational and traditional surrogacy often involve different medical procedures. In gestational surrogacy, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is used to create an embryo using the intended mother’s (or donor’s) egg and intended father’s (or donor’s) sperm, which is then transferred to the surrogate. IVF can be used in traditional surrogacy as well, but more commonly, traditional surrogacy involves artificial insemination using intrauterine insemination (IUI). IUI is a simpler medical process that usually does not require the surrogate to undergo as many fertility treatments prior to the procedure. In addition, intended mothers do not need to take fertility medications or undergo the egg retrieval procedure in traditional surrogacy, as their eggs are never used in the traditional surrogacy process.
- Surrogacy Professional: Some surrogacy professionals specialize in either traditional or gestational surrogacy. Because of the legal and emotional complexities of traditional surrogacy, gestational surrogacy agencies are generally more common. Intended parents who choose traditional surrogacy may have fewer options when choosing a professional.
- Wait Time: Similarly, many surrogates prefer gestational surrogacy because it is less emotionally complicated. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, which can make it more difficult to relinquish the baby to the intended parents. Intended parents who choose traditional surrogacy may have more difficulty finding a willing surrogate, increasing their wait time.
- Legal Process: Laws are complicated no matter what kind of surrogacy a family chooses, but many states that allow gestational surrogacy do not allow traditional surrogacy. It is important to work closely with an attorney to understand your state’s surrogacy laws. In addition, the traditional surrogacy process often involves additional legal actions because of the surrogate mother’s biological connection to the child. Legal processes such as termination of parental rights and stepparent adoption proceedings may be necessary.
- Surrogacy Cost: Traditional surrogacy tends to be less expensive than gestational surrogacy, primarily because of differences in the medical process. IUI is much cheaper than IVF, and intended parents do not need to pay for egg donation or for fertility treatments for the intended mother because the surrogate uses her own eggs.
- Risk: While it is rare for any surrogate to challenge a surrogacy agreement in an effort to keep the child, traditional surrogacy does pose a greater legal risk than gestational surrogacy. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the biological mother of the child, which means that if she bonds with the baby, she could potentially change her mind and decide she wants to parent the baby when it is born. The intended parents would then have to try to win custody in court, which could lead to a lengthy legal battle.
Considerations for Intended Parents
While each type of surrogacy has its pros and cons, it is impossible to conclude that one form of surrogacy is “better” than the other. Instead, it is up to every intended parent to decide which type of surrogacy will best meet their needs and help them achieve their goals.
Here are some questions to consider as you decide between gestational and traditional surrogacy:
- Are you interested in using your or your partner’s eggs, or will you need to use an egg donor? If you are an intended mother, have healthy, viable eggs and want to be genetically related to your child, gestational surrogacy may be a better choice for you. However, if you need to use an egg donor, you may be able to use your surrogate’s eggs and pursue traditional surrogacy, rather than identifying an egg donor and surrogate separately.
- Does gestational surrogacy or traditional surrogacy better fit your budget? Can you afford multiple rounds of IVF and egg donation (if necessary)? Cost should not be your determining factor, but it is important to consider expenses and ensure your budget will cover them. Speak with a surrogacy professional about your specific needs and circumstances for an accurate cost estimate.
- Do you feel confident and comfortable knowing your baby is being carried by his or her biological mother? Are you comfortable with the legal and emotional risks involved in traditional surrogacy? Keep in mind that your surrogate’s genetic link to your child could complicate the traditional surrogacy process.
- What kind of relationship do you want to maintain with your surrogate following the birth of your child? Because traditional surrogates are the biological mothers of the children they carry, these women often want to have a more involved relationship with the intended parents than gestational surrogates.
There are many differences intended parents should take into account when comparing traditional vs. gestational surrogacy, but these two forms of surrogacy also have some things in common. Most importantly, both gestational and traditional surrogacy can help hopeful intended parents fulfill their dreams of adding to their families.
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