Intended Parents

Surrogacy vs. Adoption: Which is Right for Our Family?

Many intended parents find themselves deciding between pursuing adoption and surrogacy at some point in their parenthood journey. Here’s an honest comparison of both.

Hopeful parents have many options when adding to their families, and many couples and individuals considering surrogacy also contemplate adoption.

Surrogacy and adoption are both rewarding experiences that allow prospective parents to complete their families. However, while they share many similarities, there are also many differences to take into account when comparing adoption vs. surrogacy. Each has its own unique process, benefits and challenges, and it is up to each growing family to consider all of the factors as they decide which path to parenthood is right for them.

Below, read about the major differences of surrogacy vs. adoption.


In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother is not related to the child she carries. Instead, she becomes pregnant through an embryo transfer using the intended parents’ or donors’ genetic materials. This is one of the biggest differences between gestational surrogacy and adoption. In adoption, the birth mother is the biological mother of her child, which can have legal and emotional implications that aren’t applicable to surrogacy. Women facing unplanned pregnancies often have more complicated emotions to process and different factors to consider than surrogate mothers.

The surrogacy process also allows one or both intended parents to be the genetic parents of their child. This makes surrogacy a popular choice for prospective parents who feel strongly about maintaining a genetic link to their children. Having a biological connection to the child also simplifies the legal process and gives intended parents more control over the surrogacy process.

Compensation and Cost

Surrogacy and adoption both involve many services, professionals and fees, including program and agency fees, legal costs and medical expenses. In addition to these costs, most surrogates are compensated by intended parents for their time, energy and sacrifices they make throughout the pregnancy. While birth mothers can receive reasonable living expenses for costs like rent and groceries, it is illegal for them to financially benefit from adoption with additional compensation. The additional fees for surrogate compensation and the embryo transfer process can make surrogacy significantly more expensive than adoption.

In addition, there may be fewer financing options available in surrogacy. For example, there is no federal tax credit for surrogacy like there is for adoption. However, if the intended parents act as the egg and/or sperm donor and incur significant medical expenses, they may be able to deduct IVF expenses, lab fees, doctor appointments and medications from their taxes. Your surrogacy professional or tax specialist can provide additional information about surrogacy and taxes, as well as your other financing options.

Matching Process

In adoption, adoptive parents generally get to choose certain criteria about the types of adoption situations they are open to, including race, substance exposure, medical history and post-placement contact. However, it is ultimately up to the birth mother to choose the family with whom she wants to place her baby. In surrogacy, the matching process tends to be more mutual: intended parents will have an opportunity to pick from profiles of prospective surrogates whose plans and goals match their own. The intended parents can then select the surrogate they wish to work with, and if she expresses mutual interest, she and the intended parents will be matched and have an opportunity to get to know each other before moving forward.

Adoptive parents may wait months or even years to find a birth mother. There are many more women interested in surrogacy than there are women considering adoption, so the wait time tends to be much shorter for surrogacy.

Screening and Prenatal Care

Like intended parents, surrogates must undergo a thorough medical screening before they can be matched to prospective intended parents. Throughout this process, drug and alcohol use is ruled out, and intended parents can be assured that the baby will not be exposed to any harmful substances in utero. The legal contracts signed by the prospective surrogate and intended parents often also include provisions to ensure the surrogate is receiving proper prenatal care.

In adoption, birth mother screening is often less thorough and invasive. Pregnant women considering adoption are typically asked to self-disclose any drug or alcohol use, along with their social and medical history, and they may or may not choose to receive prenatal care.

Medical Process

Surrogacy involves a planned pregnancy achieved through complex medical procedures that are not involved in adoption. In surrogacy, the intended mother or egg donor will need to take fertility medications and undergo an egg retrieval procedure. The eggs are then fertilized in the laboratory to create an embryo, which is transferred to the surrogate through another medical procedure. The surrogate will also be required to take various fertility treatments before and during the pregnancy.

Legal Process

The legal process also varies for surrogacy and adoption. In adoption, the birth parents must execute written consent, and their rights must be legally terminated after the baby is born. In surrogacy, legal contracts are signed ahead of the embryo transfer process to establish the intended parents as the baby’s legal parents.

Because the surrogate does not have a biological connection or parental rights to the child she carries, she cannot change her mind and decide to parent the child. The same is not true in the adoption process; a prospective birth mother can change her mind and discontinue her adoption plan at any time until she legally executes consent.


While there is always a chance of disruption in adoption, there is never any uncertainty about who will parent the baby in a surrogacy agreement. The surrogate knows from the beginning that she is carrying a baby for the intended parents. The pregnancy is planned ahead of time and legally binding contracts are signed, so there tend to be fewer surprises in the surrogacy process.

Adoptive families often have less control throughout the process and may face more uncertainty about the birth mother’s commitment to adoption, the birth father’s support of the adoption, the prenatal care the baby is receiving, and more.


Most birth mothers request some form of post-placement contact after adoption, either in an open or semi-open adoption arrangement. Many women want to maintain a relationship with the adoptive family and their child and see how he or she grows and develops. While most surrogates want to stay in touch with the intended parents, this desire is typically not as strong as it is for birth parents who have placed a biological child for adoption.

There is a lot to think about when deciding between adoption and surrogacy. If you have questions or concerns as you weigh your options, reach out to a surrogacy specialist or adoption professional to learn more and further discuss your specific circumstances.

Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process? Do you want to talk to a professional about your family-building options? Complete our form to request free information now.