< back to news

Surrogate Mother: What Does This Term Mean?

If you have been doing research about becoming a surrogate, or finding a surrogate through a surrogacy agency, you have likely come across the term surrogate mother. The term surrogate mother can create confusing thoughts and communicate misleading information about surrogacy.  This information is offered to help you understand what it means, and why it is used.


The word surrogate originated from the Latin word surrogatus, meaning a substitute, that is, a person appointed to act in the place of another.  Hence the word surrogate by definition is not related to reproduction or fertility.  The term surrogate is also used in the fields of politics, law, and healthcare.  The term surrogate mother was initially the term used in 1976 to describe a woman who carried a child for the intended mother (legal mother), to clarify the type of surrogate that was different from a surrogate used in other ways.  Surrogacy arrangements have changed drastically since the first surrogacy arrangement in 1976, making the term surrogate mother less appropriate today.  Nonetheless, the term surrogate mother is still used today.


The term surrogate is now the term most commonly known to define a woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a child she intends to give to its’ legal parents. Typically, the surrogate (carrier) is not the genetic mother of the child that she carries.  There is a type of surrogacy in which the surrogate (carrier) is also the genetic mother of the child that she gives birth to. The intent is still legally for her to give the child to its’ legal parent(s).  This type of surrogate is known as a traditional surrogate.  In this type of arrangement, the surrogate is also the egg donor.  Traditional surrogates become pregnant through insemination, usually with intended fathers’ sperm.


Most women that are surrogates are gestational surrogates.  Gestational surrogates are not genetically connected to the child they carry in their uterus.  Gestational surrogates get pregnant when an embryo that was previously created through in vitro fertilization is transferred into her uterus.  The embryo is created with either intended mother’s egg or donor egg, and intended father’s sperm or donor sperm. Gestational surrogates are referred to as gestational carriers in the medical and legal fields of reproductive medicine.


It is helpful to learn and understand these important terms when researching surrogacy related terms.  It is also helpful to know that women that help others by carrying a child so that someone else can become a parent, are wonderful and special human beings.  It does not matter the title that describes their amazing and unique act of kindness.  To learn how you can become a surrogate, or become a parent through surrogacy, contact Pathways To Parenthood:  An Egg Donor & Surrogacy Agency at