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The Language of Surrogacy for Surrogates

Navigating the surrogate process can be complicated, and it helps to understand the glossary of words and phrases involved in the journey. If you want to become a surrogate, we’ve developed a list of phrases that are commonly used during the surrogacy process along with their definitions.

Common Surrogacy Phrases

It’s understandable that young women who are considering becoming surrogate mothers have a lot of questions at the outset of their journeys. They want to learn about everything from surrogate mother pay to how long the process takes to how intended parents are matched with surrogates.

This list won’t answer all of these questions, but our website is an excellent resource. You can also contact us to get more information. While not an exhaustive list, we hope this information helps potential surrogates understand the basics of surrogacy.

  • Gestational carrier/gestational surrogate/surrogate mother: A gestational carrier or surrogate is not biologically related to the baby she carries. Instead, an embryo created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) is implanted into the surrogate’s uterus. IVF uses the eggs and sperm of the intended parents or donors.
  • Traditional surrogacy: Using a surrogate who is biologically related to the embryo is known as traditional surrogacy. It is much less common than gestational surrogacy.
  • Intended parent: People choose to grow their families through surrogacy for various reasons. Some couples experience fertility issues. It’s also a choice for gay couples or single individuals who want to raise a child. Those who choose surrogacy to become parents are referred to as intended parents.  
  • Body mass index (BMI): Measuring your body fat based on your height and weight is a calculation called body mass index. Surrogacy agencies use it as one factor to determine if someone is qualified to be a surrogate mother. Having a BMI that is considered too high or too low can present an increased risk of complications for both the surrogate and the baby and can decrease the effectiveness of the medications taken to prepare for the IVF process. We work with women interested in becoming surrogates whose BMIs are near the desired level. You can calculate your BMI here.
  • Screening: This describes the process that begins once you submit an application to become a surrogate. The screening process includes reviewing the application and, if you meet the requirements, scheduling a series of interviews and conducting a thorough background check and home visit from a social worker. You can learn more about this part of the process here.
  • Pre-birth order: A pre-birth order is a legal agreement that both the surrogate and intended parents sign before the baby is born. It declares the intended parents (or parent) are the child’s legal parent(s). A pre-birth order is preferable to a post-birth order because it requires a hospital to put the intended parents’ names on the birth certificate and eliminate the possibility of confusion after the birth.
  • Post-birth order: In states where pre-birth orders are not allowed, a post-birth order is filed a few days after the baby is born to establish the intended parents as the legal parents. Even though some intended parents worry about surrogate mothers changing their minds, gestational carriers have no legal rights to taking custody of the child.
  • IVF: As mentioned earlier, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process through which a woman’s mature eggs are retrieved and fertilized by a man’s sperm in a lab before being transferred into the gestational carrier’s uterus. It is considered the most effective form of assisted reproduction technology.
  • Embryo transfer: This is the final step of IVF when the fertilized egg—now an embryo—is transferred into the woman’s uterus.
  • Matching: After a surrogate mother creates a profile, the process of matching her with intended parents begins. If intended parents say they’re interested in a profile, we schedule a conference call that includes a Reproductive Possibilities team member.
  • BETA testing: About 10 days after an embryo transfer, a blood test indicates if a gestational carrier is pregnant. The test measures the levels of specific hormones that indicate pregnancy, including estradiol, progesterone, LH, and HCG.
  • Base Fee (compensation): The subject of surrogate mother pay is important. The base fee is the compensation excluding benefits and expenses. You can learn more about the compensation structure at RP on our website.

As you become familiar with the phrases, it’s important also to learn about the surrogacy laws in the state where you reside. You can rely on our team’s help with this after you submit an application or you can learn more by contacting us using the online form.