Surrogacy terminology: Get the ball rolling

When you first start to look into surrogacy you will come across many new terms. Understanding these terms is important as it will help you work out your options and discuss your options with others. In essence, understanding surrogacy terminology will help you get the ball rolling. In this post, Pink Families explains some of the terms related to surrogacy.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is where someone decides to give birth to a child for someone else. This person is referred to as the surrogate. The surrogate gives the newborn baby to the person or couple.

The latin words “surrogatus” or “surrogare” mean to choose in place of another. “Rogare” means to ask. Therefore, surrogacy means to ask someone else to do something in place of yourself.

Surrogacy terms

Biological mother or genetic donor

The term biological mother or genetic donor refers to the person who donates their egg (ovum) so that fertilization can take place.

Fertilization is where an egg (ovum) and a sperm come together to produce a cell that later becomes a baby.

The genetic donor may be the same as the surrogate mother or they may be different to the surrogate.

Surrogate mother or surrogate

When the terms surrogate mother or surrogate are used they are usually used to refer to the person who has or will carry the child throughout gestation.

The period of gestation is the time in which a fetus develops through to the time of birth. Gestating refers to carrying the child within the uterus from conception to delivery.

The surrogate therefore is the one who carries the child throughout pregnancy and then gives birth to the child.

Commissioning parents or intending parents

The couple that are to become the parents of the child are referred to as the commissioning parents or intending parents. The terms commissioning and intending can also be used to refer to an individual parent. For example, a commissioning father or a commissioning mother.

Two types of surrogacy

There are two types of surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy is where the egg (ovum) of the surrogate mother is used with the sperm of the intending father(s). This type of surrogacy is also referred to as “straight”, “natural” or “partial” surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy is made possible through intrauterine insemination (IUI) in a clinic or artificial insemination at home, for example.

The person who both donates the egg and then becomes the surrogate is referred to as the biologic, genetic and gestational mother.

This person carries the baby through to pregnancy. They are genetically related to the child. They also give birth to the baby and then give up their parental rights to the commissioning parent(s).

Gestational surrogacy

Gestational surrogacy involves in vitro fertilization, also referred to as IVF. When gestational surrogacy is used, the surrogate host is not genetically related to the child. An oocyte (an immature egg) is donated by someone else (not the surrogate) so that fertilization can take place.

Altruistic or commercial surrogacy

Surrogate arrangements can involve payment or no payment.

Altruistic surrogacy

Altruistic surrogacy is where the surrogate chooses to carry the child for a reason other than financial gain.

Commercial surrogacy

Commercial surrogacy is where there is a financial payment of some sort to the surrogate for carrying and giving birth to the child.


Kalsang Bhatia K, Martindale EA, Rustamov O, Nysenbaum AM. Surrogate pregnancy: an essential guide for clinicians. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist 2009;11(1); 49-54.

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