Surrogacy and donation at a glance

  • Surrogacy refers to a woman becoming pregnant, through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination, and delivering a child on behalf of a parent or couple who cannot carry a successful pregnancy on their own.
  • Donation in fertility treatment refers to a couple or parent using sperm, egg(s) or embryo(s) donated by other people in order to achieve pregnancy through IVF treatment.
  • Donation and/or surrogacy in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies allows an individual or couple to become biological parents, which would not have been possible otherwise.

Surrogacy and donation overview

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), third-party reproduction refers to the use of donated eggs, sperm or embryos, or the use of a gestational carrier (surrogate), in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies to help an individual or a couple become parents.

These third-party reproduction efforts enable many people to have a family, including:

  • Couples or individuals with infertility, preventing natural pregnancy using their own sperm and/or eggs.
  • Women who cannot carry a pregnancy on their own.
  • Women who are past the age of natural reproduction and/or are experiencing menopause.
  • Single parents who wish to have a child on their own.
  • LGBT couples or individuals who need assistance from the opposite sex to have children.
  • An individual or couple who has an increased risk of passing genetic abnormalities along to their child.

Generally, donation is used in fertility treatment because the recipient(s) are unable to achieve pregnancy using their own sperm, eggs or embryos (fertilized eggs). The sperm, egg or embryo donor may remain anonymous or may be known by the recipient, such as a family member, a friend or someone contacted through a third-party agency.

Pregnancies achieved through donation or surrogacy can involve one or more assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF.

Surrogacy (gestational carrier)

Gestational surrogacy involves implanting an embryo produced by the recipient parents via IVF into the uterus of a surrogate (preferentially known as a gestational carrier). A child who is born through gestational surrogacy is not genetically related to the surrogate. Because of this, gestational surrogacy is the preferred form of surrogacy for many people.

Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate’s own eggs and involves artificial insemination. A child born through traditional surrogacy will be genetically related to the surrogate, and therefore traditional surrogacy is rarely used in today’s assisted reproduction.

Learn More About Surrogacy

Sperm donation

Sperm donation refers to sperm that is donated by a man who is not the recipient’s partner. Donated sperm is either used in artificial insemination (sperm placed into the female recipient’s uterus) or is combined with female eggs outside of the body in a lab during IVF. Fertility specialists will evaluate the sperm donor for health, mental health and genetic makeup, then freeze and store it for later use.

Learn More About Sperm Donation

Egg donation

Egg donation involves a woman donating her eggs to another woman or couple to be used in IVF to achieve a successful pregnancy. A donor can be known (such as a family member or close friend) or come through an egg donation agency. The donated eggs are combined with either the male partner’s sperm or donated sperm during IVF to make an embryo. The embryo(s) are then implanted into the uterus of the recipient mother.
Learn More About Egg Donation

What are the risks of surrogacy and donation?

Although the medical risks are similar to those associated with IVF, surrogacy and donation also carry emotional and legal considerations for recipient parents, donors and surrogates related to genetic relationships and carrying a pregnancy.

A physician may suggest that individuals and/or couples dealing with these issues seek professional counseling from psychologists and attorneys specialized in third-party reproduction issues.

Those considering surrogacy or egg, sperm or embryo donation may want to speak with other patients who have gone through a similar process. Our staff can direct patients to support groups and other resources.