“Surrogate” vs. “Surrogate Mother”

In recent years, the concept of surrogacy has become a widely discussed and debated topic. As the demand for assisted reproductive technologies grows, so does the need for clarity in understanding the terminology associated with surrogacy. One distinction that often leads to confusion is the differentiation between a “surrogate” and a “surrogate mother” and the preference amongst those close to surrogacy to simply use the term surrogate or gestational carrier.  This article aims to shed light on the nuances surrounding these terms and exploring the ethical considerations and societal implications that come with them.

A surrogate, in the context of assisted reproduction, is an individual who carries and delivers a child for intended parents. Surrogates can be gestational or traditional. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate carries a child to whom she is not genetically related, while in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate uses her own eggs, making her genetically related to the child.

The term “surrogate mother” is colloquially used to refer to a woman who carries a child on behalf of intended parents. However, this phrase can be misleading, as it may imply a biological connection between the surrogate and the child. This term is less commonly used in the field of assisted reproduction due to its potential to create confusion.

Identity and Emotional Impact:

The language we use matters and referring to a surrogate as a “surrogate mother” may impact her sense of identity and role in the surrogacy journey. Clear terminology helps establish boundaries and manage expectations, reducing the emotional impact on all parties involved.

Stigma and Misconceptions:

The terminology used in discussions about surrogacy can contribute to societal attitudes and perceptions. The use of the term “surrogate mother” may perpetuate misconceptions and reinforce traditional notions of motherhood, potentially stigmatizing those involved in surrogacy as women giving up their newborn babies, when it is quite the opposite. It is a surrogate giving back to the intended parents the embryo she carried to term as their new baby. 

Educational Initiatives:

Clarity in terminology is essential for public understanding of assisted reproductive technologies. Educational initiatives can help dispel myths and promote a nuanced understanding of surrogacy, fostering a more inclusive and supportive societal environment.

In the complex landscape of assisted reproduction, precision in language is crucial. While the term “surrogate mother” may be used colloquially, the more accurate term “surrogate” better reflects the diverse ways individuals contribute to the surrogacy process. Recognizing and respecting the distinctions between these terms is not only ethically responsible but also essential for shaping a society that embraces the diversity of family-building experiences.

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