Gestational Carrier vs. Surrogate Mother: What’s the Right Term?

Key Points:
  • Learn what it means to be a surrogate mother and gestational carrier.
  • Get a better understanding of the language used in the surrogacy industry.
  • Find what you’re looking for by consulting a surrogacy agency and contact a specialist today.

In recent years, surrogacy has gained traction as a popular family-building method. Because surrogacy is still  an emerging field, there is a lot of misinformation and questions surrounding the process. One of the areas people have the most questions about is the language that should be used when talking about surrogates.

If you have questions about surrogacy and the language involved, you can contact a surrogacy professional today to get the information you need.

The use of proper language when talking about this complicated subject can go a long way. It can make people feel more comfortable, help educate them about the process and overall give a better idea of how modern surrogacy really works in today’s world.

Wherever you are in your surrogacy journey — and whether you’re a prospective surrogate or a hopeful parent — having the right tools to talk about surrogacy is invaluable. That’s why we’ve provided this guide to talking about some of the most important details in the process.

Speak with a specialist today!

What is the Difference Between “Gestational Carrier” and “Surrogate Mother”?

As you research the possibility of carrying a child for someone else (or having someone else carry your child), you’ll frequently come across a few different terms: gestational carrier, surrogate and surrogate mother. You know they all describe the same thing — a woman who voluntarily carries a child for intended parents. Her journey is protected by a legal contract, she works closely with the intended parents throughout, and she may even receive surrogate compensation, based on her personal situation. When people talk about this brave kind of woman, they often use the surrogate “synonyms” mentioned above.

But, did you know there is a difference between “surrogate” and “gestational carrier” — and that many professionals will advise using one over the other?

Before we get into the implications of gestational carrier vs. surrogate, you need to first understand that a woman can carry a child for intended parents in two ways. She can be a traditional surrogate, in which she donates her eggs for use in the intended parents’ embryo, or she can be a gestational surrogate, in which she is not genetically related to the baby that she carries.

This factor is the biggest difference between “gestational carrier” and “surrogate mother.” While they are used interchangeably online and in daily conversation, many surrogacy professionals will use the former term in cases of gestational surrogacy and the latter in cases of traditional surrogacy.

Because a traditional surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, surrogate “mother” is a bit more applicable. A gestational carrier shares no DNA with the baby she carries, so calling her the surrogate “mother” is inappropriate. Regardless of what kind of surrogate a woman is, she knows that the baby is the intended parents’, so she never feels like a “mother” to the baby she carries at all.

That’s why, today, gestational carrier is the preferred term in applicable situations. Of course, every individual is different, so the best way to determine what a prospective surrogate wants to be called is by asking her! When it comes to this sensitive topic, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Why the Fuss Over “Gestational Pregnancy” vs. “Surrogacy”?

On the same topic of gestational carrier vs. surrogate mother, people often have another question: What is the difference between gestational pregnancy and surrogacy?

Again, it’s important to think about the two different types of surrogacy and the medical processes involved. “Gestational pregnancy” is fairly self-explanatory; it’s the term used when a surrogate is not carrying a genetically related child. “Surrogate pregnancy,” however, is a bit more complicated, as it’s a term that many people use to describe either process.

But, can they really be used interchangeably? Which is the best one when talking about the surrogacy process?

Today, it’s much more acceptable to use the term “surrogate” pregnancy than it is to use the term “surrogate mother.” Still, intended parents and gestational carriers should be clear with their surrogacy professionals about just which process they are interested in.

Most professionals only deal with gestational pregnancy — but “surrogate pregnancy” may also be a descriptor that they use in their information.

Before deciding which phrase you use in your personal journey, talk to your surrogacy partner. What are you both comfortable using? From there, you can be on the same page when telling others about your surrogacy process.


Your surrogacy specialist will help you work through any language and be available to assist with anything you should need during the surrogacy process.

Why You’ll Find All Sorts of Language on Our Site

Most surrogates today agree on one thing: In order to educate people about the truth of the modern surrogacy process, it’s important to choose the first term when choosing between “gestational carrier” vs. “surrogate mother.”

In many ways, “surrogate mother” and “surrogacy” bring up negative, outdated notions about what surrogacy is — that a woman is “giving up” her own child and that she will be involved in the baby’s life as some kind of “mother” figure.

However, on our website and on other resources, you may find all of these phrases used interchangeably. Why is that?

At, our mission is to make objective surrogacy information as easily accessible as possible. This means we have to meet people at their level of surrogacy knowledge. Often, the people who are researching surrogacy don’t know a lot about it.

So, they use common language like “surrogate mother” instead of more politically correct terms. In turn, in order to help them find and understand the information they need, we use terms like “surrogate mother” throughout our educational materials. It doesn’t mean we believe that to be the proper term — just that we know the level of education many prospective surrogates and intended parents have at the beginning of their journey.

Because surrogacy is a complicated and intricate process, having all the right information from the start is crucially important. Maybe you came to this article wondering what the big difference between surrogate and gestational carrier was. Maybe you were curious why there were different surrogate synonyms for the same thing in the first place.

Whatever your situation, you should know now that using the right language when talking about this highly personal journey is an important step in helping people understand and embrace surrogacy as an amazing way to bring a child into the world. If you have more questions about how to talk about surrogacy, contact a surrogacy professional today to expand your knowledge of surrogacy language.

Male and Female couple smiling with surrogate mother
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