Surrogate vs. Gestational Carrier: What They Mean and Which One to Use

Why We Use Certain Terms on Our Website

What is the difference between surrogacy and gestational carrier? What are the proper terms to use to describe your surrogacy journey? Learn more about this debate here.

As you peruse our agency’s website, you will come across some frequently used terms in both our “intended parents” and “surrogates” content. A few of these are the phrases “surrogate mother” and “surrogate.”

These terms have long been used in the history of surrogacy, both correctly and incorrectly. However, advancements in how surrogacy works and how society views this family-building process have changed how these terms are used today. Now, many surrogacy professionals — including American Surrogacy — prefer to use other terms: surrogacy synonyms, as it were. The terms we use (and encourage others to use, as well) include “gestational carrier” or “gestational surrogate” — not “surrogate mother.”

But, you’ll still see the latter term on our website, which may beg the question: Why do we include them?

To understand the answer to this question, there are a few things you’ll need to understand first.

What is the Difference Between a Gestational Carrier and a Surrogate?

Upon learning that the terms “surrogate” and “surrogate mother” are no longer preferred in the surrogacy community, prospective surrogates and intended parents often ask: Is there even a difference between a surrogate and gestational carrier?

In most cases, no — but the answer will depend upon a surrogacy’s unique circumstances.

In general, “surrogate,” “surrogate mother” and “gestational carrier” are terms used interchangeably to mean a woman who voluntarily carries a child for someone else. She is protected by a legal contract, may receive a base compensation, and is prepared to hand the child to the intended parents once he or she is born. She works closely with surrogacy professionals and the intended parents every step along the way to ensure she is comfortable with the process.

In most modern surrogacies, a carrier is not genetically related to the child she carries. The embryo transferred to her uterus is created with the intended parents’ (or donor) gametes, and she has no genetic claim to the baby she gives birth to. In no way is this woman a “mother” to the child — simply a gestational carrier.

So, when do people use gestational carrier vs. surrogate mother?

Every carrier and intended parent has different opinions about proper terminology in their surrogacy journey, so the decision of which term to use is often up to the parties involved. However, “surrogate mother” and “surrogate” are often used specifically in traditional surrogacies. In this family-building process, the carrier is related to the baby — and is the biological mother of the child. While she will often not play a motherly role in the child’s life, she may play a role similar to a birth parent in an adoption. Again, this decision will be entirely up to her and the intended parents.

Even in traditional surrogacies, surrogacy participants are moving to the use of “carrier” instead of “surrogate mother” because of the emotional weight of the term “mother.” So, in both traditional and gestational surrogacy, if someone is deciding between using “gestational carrier” vs. “surrogate mother,” the former term is considered the more politically correct option.

What About a Gestational Pregnancy vs. a Surrogacy?

Word choice can be important even when the terms aren’t applied to a person. Sometimes, surrogacy partners ask about using “surrogacy” to describe this family-building process. Is it politically correct?

Using “surrogacy” as a definer for this family-building process is certainly more acceptable than using “surrogate mother” to describe the carrier involved. However, the term “surrogacy” does bring up some complicated issues when used in society. Many people have outdated ideas of what surrogacy is really like, such as the common misconception that a woman is “giving up” her own child. In a move to bring a more positive light to this family-building process, some people have begun to use the phrase “gestational pregnancy” instead. Because it doesn’t come with as many negative connotations, this term provides a cleaner slate for intended parents and surrogates to educate and inform others about the realities of their journey.

In the end, whether you use “gestational pregnancy” vs. “surrogacy” is entirely up to you. It’s a good idea to speak with your surrogacy partner before using one or the other so you are both on the same page.

Why We Use “Surrogate Mother” — and Other “Surrogates” Synonyms

American Surrogacy, like many other professionals, is dedicated to using proper terminology when discussing this family-building process. However, we do use the terms “surrogate” and “surrogate mother” on our site — but for a good reason.

When people start researching the surrogacy process — either to become a gestational carrier or an intended parent — they do not often have a solid understanding of the process. Therefore, they use the incorrect terminology they most commonly hear from sources like the media and the internet. So, instead of searching for a “gestational carrier” or looking to “become a gestational carrier,” they use the most commonly searched term: surrogate mother, or surrogate.

At American Surrogacy, we understand the nuances and difference between gestational carrier and surrogate mother — but, to help educate those who are most interested in this family-building process, we use those terms interchangeably on our website. That way, when people do use “surrogate mother,” they are directed to our website, where our objective information helps them to learn more about the surrogacy process and what terms they should really use instead.

Know this: The language on our website is not indicative of our agency’s view of gestational carriers. When our specialists start working with intended parents or prospective carriers, they never use the term “surrogate mother.” Instead, they work with the surrogacy participants to determine what term they are most comfortable being referred to as, whether that be “surrogate” or “gestational carrier.” Surrogacy is a personal journey, and our specialists are here to ensure that your rights and interests are considered every step of the way.

For more information on the difference between “surrogate” and “gestational carrier,” or to learn more about the surrogacy process in general, please contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-BABY(2229). We will help you create the surrogacy journey of your dreams.