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Surrogacy Glossary

When it comes to surrogacy there are plenty of specialist terms and abbreviations! We compiled a list of the most common ones and their meaning.


Altruistic surrogacy
Carrying the pregnancy for the intended parent(s) without financial gain (expenses incurred that are related to pregnancy and birth may be reimbursed). Altruistic surrogacy is legal in countries like the UK and Canada.

Artificial insemination

A procedure where sperm are introduced into the womb by means other than sexual intercourse, as opposed to natural insemination which happens through sexual intercouse. Examples are intracervical and intrauterine insemination.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

A wide range of procedures to treat infertility. Examples are in vitro fertilisation (IVF), embryo transfer (ET), gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT), artificial insemination, surrogacy and all related treatments and medications.

Assisted hatching

A laboratory technique developed to increase the rate of success in IVF. A micromanipulation is implemented to weaken the outer layer of the fertilised egg, which helps the expanding mass of cells that are growing inside break through and hatch. They are called eggs for a reason.

At home insemination

A traditional artificial insemination method, the do-it-yourself approach to artificial insemination to achieve a pregnancy with donor sperm. As opposed to In Vitro Fertilisation which is done in a lab. An intracervical insemination procedure that uses raw or unwashed donor sperm. Sometimes called the ‘Turkey Baster method’.


Birth control pills

Form part of the treatment given during IVF, including the egg donor as well as surrogates.
Birth mother (surrogate mother or surrogate) – The woman who will carry the child through gestation until birth. The birth mother is normally also the legal parent – which is why pre-birth orders have been created to ensure the intended parents are recognised as the legal parents from birth.

Biochemical pregnancy

A pregnancy diagnosed only by the detection of hCG in serum or urine and that does not develop into a clinical pregnancy.
Blastocyst (blastula) – The term used to describe the fertilised egg that forms in early development, roughly the first 2 weeks after conception. The blastocyst is the source of embryonic stem cells which are capable of forming all cell types in the embryo. From the Greek, blastos which means sprout.

Blastocyst transfer

The term used to describe the fertilised egg that forms in early development, roughly the first 2 weeks after conception. The blastocyst is the source of embryonic stem cells which are capable of forming all cell types in the embryo. From the Greek, blastos which means sprout.

Blood work

General term for blood tests. The usual tests associated with fertility look for sexually transmitted infections and drug use.


Commissioning parents (intended parents)

The person or persons who are responsible for the child after birth. Also known as intended parents. The terms commissioning and intending can also be used to refer to an individual parent. For example, a commissioning father or a commissioning mother.

Controlled ovarian stimulation

Medical treatment to stimulate the ovaries to develop multiple eggs.


A method of preserving sperm, eggs and embryos in a frozen state.



May refer to sperm, egg or embryo donation. It means that a person gives consent to another person to make decisions over the donated genetic material.

Donor egg/oocyte

An unfertilised egg that is donated to the intended parent(s), the donor may be known or unknown. Egg donation makes parenthood possible for those who could not achieve a pregnancy otherwise.

Donor embryo

A donor embryo could be made up of donated sperm and eggs which do not originate in the intended parent(s). It could also be an embryo which was unused during someone else’s IVF cycle.

Donor insemination

An artificial insemination using donor sperm, not from the woman’s partner. Non sexual in body insemination.

Donor sperm

Sperm which does not originate from either of the intended parents. The donor may be known or unknown.


Ectopic pregnancy

A pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside the uterus.

Egg donation contract

The contract between the IP(s) and the egg donor, effectively the egg donor handing over responsibility for her genetic material to the recipient. Egg donation contracts set out what can or cannot be done with those eggs that are being donated.

Egg donor

The woman who donates her genetic material (eggs) to the intended parent(s) for the process of procreation through IVF.

Egg retrieval

The procedure that completes an egg donation cycle where the doctor collects eggs from ovarian follicles for use in IVF treatment.


Refers to the fertilised egg during the early stages of development, from fertilisation to week 8.

Embryo transfer

A procedure where an embryo created through IVF is placed into the uterus to achieve a pregnancy. This usually refers to a day 2-3 embryo as opposed to a blastocyst transfer which is a day 5-6 embryo.


A disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus.

Escrow account

This is an account where the intended parent(s) pay into in order to pay their surrogacy expenses. Having an escrow accounts helps build trust and shows that the intended parent(s) are able to afford the surrogacy process. Since surrogacy costs are not paid for up-front, having available funds in an escrow is an effective way to show the IPs are committed. Becoming an IP is a great responsibility, and escrow accounts help mitigate stress for all the parties involved. This setup also helps the IPs keep track of costs because everything can be managed through a single fund.


Knows as the female hormone, it is naturally produced and controls the reproductive cycles. Hormones are used during egg donation and surrogacy cycles to prepare the body for the relevant procedures.



A single sperm penetrates an egg and the combination of their genetic material results in a zygote, then develops into an embryo.

Fetal death

May occur at or after 20 completed weeks of gestation.


The product of fertilization from completion of embryonic development, at 8 completed weeks after fertilization, until abortion or birth.

Frozen embryo

Embryos are frozen (cryopreserved), they are then thawed just before the transfer to the uterus or fallopian tube.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

A procedure where an embryo that was stored in cryopreservation is thawed and then transferred to the womb of a woman to achieve a pregnancy.

Full-term birth

It is considered a full term pregnancy if birth occurs between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation.



Refers to the genetic material from either male or female. Eggs (oocytes) and sperm (spermatozoa).

Gamete intra fallopian transfer (GIFT)

A method of assisted reproduction where the egg(s) from one woman and sperm from one man are both placed into the fallopian tube of the woman who will carry the pregnancy, the aim is to achieve fertilisation and pregnancy as if conception had happened naturally. May be used in cases where parties object to IVF.

Gestational surrogate/carrier

The woman who carries the pregnancy for the intended parent(s).



During the first week after fertilisation, cells are reproducing rapidly inside the egg, or blastocyst at that stage. The blastocyst has a protective layer called the zona pellucida. At about day 5 the expanding blob of cells needs to break that protective layer in order to keep growing. We say it ‘hatches’. Once the blastocyst is out, it experiences increased growth and sticks itself onto the lining of the uterus to have access to nutrients and continue developing.


A common procedure that looks at the lining of the uterus to diagnose reproductive health. This is done with a tool that has a camera and a light which is placed into the vagina to check the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The procedure is also used to remove growths or collect samples from the uterus and to find the causes of infertility in women.


Implantation (of embryo)

The embryo ‘sticking’ onto the lining of the uterus so it can be supplied with nourishment and grow. In an ectopic pregnancy it may implant outside the uterus.

Independent surrogacy (Indy)

A surrogacy journey planned without an agency.


The inability to conceive through sexual intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Also refers to problems with low sperm count, known as male factor infertility. There are many causes of infertility, some are genetic others appear after accidents or operations.

Intended parent(s) (IP)

The person(s) who are commissioning the surrogate in order to form their family. Also intended father(s) IF and intended mother(s) IM.

Intracervical insemination (ICI)

A method of artificial insemination that dates back to the 19th century. Raw or untreated male sperm is placed directly into the cervix using a syringe. This process is the closest to natural insemination of all assistive reproductive techniques. Also referred to as intravaginal insemination.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

A technique that is becoming more common at IVF clinics where by a single healthy sperm is selected and inserted directly into a healthy egg under a microscope. This method has proven more effective than the traditional in vitro fertilisation technique where sperm is placed in the same dish as the eggs and left fertilise without additional manipulation.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

An artificial insemination method in which washed semen is injected directly into the uterus. This is performed by a professional and has greater chances of achieving pregnancy than ICI.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

The procedure where an egg (or more than one egg) is combined with sperm in a laboratory to achieve fertilisation outside of the body. The resulting fertilised eggs, or embryos, are then transferred into the uterus of a woman with to achieve a pregnancy. In IVF procedures may result in more embryos being created than are required, those surplus embryos may be frozen and used later or donated.


Legal clearance

The document issued by your fertility attorney that states all parties have come to an agreement. Legal clearance is required for egg/sperm donation and surrogacy arrangements. The attorney will send this to your fertility clinic to allow medical treatments to start. This is the outcome of signing legal contracts.


Male factor infertility

Infertility due to low sperm numbers, or sperm that don’t have normal shape or movement (motility). There is a variety of methods used to overcome MFI, such as ICSI and microsurgical sperm aspiration.

Medical clearance

Your doctor will issue medical clearance when all necessary checks have been completed and passed. Medical clearance is required for persons involved in IVF, such as the egg donor, sperm donor, intended parent(s), surrogate and sometimes even the surrogate’s partner.


The technology that makes it possible to manipulate cells like the egg, sperm and blastocysts. It allows us to be able to operate on such a small and precise scale that we can manipulate single cells.


Loss of a pregnancy, usually before the 20th week.

Mock cycle

A mock cycle may be prescribed during IVF treatment to the woman who is attempting to become pregnant. Doctors are looking for the reaction to the prescribed hormones and the state of the uterus amongst other things. May be required before getting medical clearance. It involves taking the same hormones and medication as if preparing for an embryo transfer.

Multiples journey (pregnancy)

A pregnancy resulting in more than 1 embryo/fetus and more than 1 baby being born.


Natural cycle IVF

Refers to IVF which uses the woman’s natural cycles, ie not using any hormones or medication to induce cycles. This may be used to retrieve eggs and for embryo transfer. Since no medication is required it is more affordable and less stressful on the woman’s body.

Natural insemination

The fertilisation of eggs within the woman’s body via sexual intercourse. As opposed to artificial insemination which happens without sexual intercourse.



Refers to the release of a mature ovum (egg/oocyte) from an ovarian follicle. During ovulation, an egg is available for fertilisation.


The egg.

Oocyte donation cycle (egg donation cycle)

An egg donation cycle refers to the process the egg donor will go through to create eggs and have them retrieved for donation to the intended parents. The first part is to getting medical clearance. Then the prescribed medication will start to prepare the body for the donation cycle. There will be a number of visits to the clinic for scans and to check how the cycle is progressing. Finalising in the egg retrieval carried out under sedation.

Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN)

The doctor who specializes in women’s reproductive health.


Parent profile

Profiles created by surrogacy agencies to about the intended parent(s). The profiles help the surrogate decide if they are happy to work with the intended parent(s).

Post-birth order

A court document filed by the intended parent(s) or their attorney after the birth of the child. Standard procedure at birth is that the birth mother’s name appears on the birth certificate, even if she is not genetically related to the child as is the case with gestational surrogates. The birth mother is automatically the legal parent, the post-birth order is an adoption order establishing the intended parent(s) as the legal parent(s) of the child. Once granted, a new birth certificate is issued with the name of intended parent(s).

Pre-birth order

A court document filed by the intended parent(s) or their attorney prior to the birth of the child. This being granted ensures that their names will appear on the birth certificate. It declares the IPs as the legal parents, rather than the birth mother. These are not available in all states.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)

A test carried out by taking a sample of DNA from an IVF embryo to check for abnormalities before transfer. This testing allows the identification of gender of the embryo.


The hormone produced by the corpus luteum during the second half of a woman’s cycle. It thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare it to accept implantation of a fertilized egg. It is also used to keep the gestational carrier’s body from rejecting the couple’s embryos.


Reproductive endocrinologist (RE)

The surgical doctor that specialises in reproductive medicine and infertility treatment through assistive reproductive technology. They treat reproductive disorders in men and women.

Recurrent spontaneous abortion/miscarriage/pregnancy loss)

The spontaneous loss of a 2 or more clinically assisted pregnancies.


Sexually transmitted infection (or disease) (STI/STD)

Blood tests must be carried out on all participants in a surrogacy arrangement to ensure there is no chance of unwanted infections transferring between the parties involved. Medical clearance establishes that all necessary tests have been passed.

Single embryo transfer (SET)

Refers to the transfer of one single embryo into the uterus. Embryos created through IVF may be more likely to split into identical twins, and multiples carry a higher risk to both the fetus and the gestational carrier. Historically, IVF clinics recommended transferring more than 1 embryo in order to have higher chances of achieving a pregnancy. With the advances of ART it is now widely recommended to proceed with SETs.

Singleton journey

A pregnancy resulting in a single fetus and the birth of a single baby.

Sperm donor

The man who donates his genetic material (sperm) to the intended parent(s) for the process of procreation through artificial insemination/IVF.


An irreversible condition that prevents reproduction, affecting both men and women.


The practice where a woman agrees to become pregnant and have a child for someone else. It involves carrying a baby through gestation and birth for the intended parent(s). The surrogate is the woman who agrees to become pregnant for the IP(s) who will care for the child. Traditional surrogacy involves the surrogate also donating her own eggs which means the surrogate is biologically related to the child. Host or gestational surrogacy involves using the eggs from another woman, and the surrogate is not biologically related.

Surrogacy agency

A surrogacy agency is an important part of this process, acting as a liaison between you and the intended parents, as well as between you, the clinic, and the hospital. The agency will coordinate your match with IPs, medical evaluations, legal agreement, compensation, and handle all your travel arrangements. They are there to answer your questions and provide you support through your journey.

Surrogacy contract

The agreement between parties where the surrogate agrees to try to become pregnant for the intended parent(s). A contract is a formal arrangement and must be completed by an experienced family planning attorney. Surrogacy contracts try to stipulate what will be done in any number of possible situation that may arise due to the pregnancy, it is a vital part of a surrogacy journey. After completing contracts, the attorney will issue legal clearance.


Traditional surrogacy (TS)

The arrangement where the surrogate donates her eggs as well as carries the pregnancy for the IP(s). Since the surrogate provides the eggs she is genetically related to the child. Traditional surrogacy is not widely supported by surrogacy agencies in the USA, and such arrangements are commonly made between friends or acquaintances.



An imaging procedure that allows us to see inside the reproductive organs.



A fertilized egg, resulting from the union of the parents gametes (the egg and sperm cells). When the gametes join they form a cell called a zygote. Human sperm and eggs contain 23 chromosomes, about 20 hours after fertilisation the chromosomes are put together into the two first cells of the embryo.