The Difference Between Egg Donation and Gestational Surrogacy

Surrogacy… Egg Donation… Both are ways that women can contribute to helping another person or couple build their family. Are they different than one another? Absolutely, though they often are confused for each other. Let’s break down some of those differences. 

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do they harvest your eggs at the same time they do the transfer? 

A: Definitely not! The hormones needed for each procedure are not the same. For surrogacy, you take hormones that suppress your egg production and ovulation. With egg donation, the hormones used promote the production of eggs. Additionally, it is not common for a surrogate to use her own eggs. That is called traditional surrogacy, and it is fairly uncommon now as it is much more legally and emotionally fraught. 

Q: You have to be under the age of 28 to be a surrogate, right? 

A: Gestational carriers can be between the ages of twenty-one through the early forties. For egg donation, it is typically preferred and age under 28-30 because egg quality is known to deteriorate after your twenties. Your uterus is able to carry pregnancies much longer that your ovaries produce strong eggs. 

Q: My friend was a surrogate in college because it was the best way for her to earn some quick money!

A: While it is possible that your friend was a surrogate in college, it would be less likely, because a major criteria to be a surrogate is that you must have children of your own already. It’s much more likely that she was an egg donor and even then it wasn’t “quick” money – it takes a real time commitment (not to mention the physical commitment) to be an egg donor. 

Here are some other key facts that you may not have had at your fingertips about the differences between being an egg donor and being a gestational carrier. 

Egg donation is:

  • Often anonymous/unknown (the donor doesn’t know the identity of the recipients and vice versa but anonymous is a misnomer as with so many genetic testing services many people are “accidentally” finding their donors!)

  • Completely possible even if you haven’t had your own children

  • Usually a 6-month commitment

  • Your genetic material (your eggs!)

  • Usually for women between 21 and 30

  • Compensated at around $5,000 – $7,000 

  • For single recipients, for same sex couple recipients, or for a recipient who is able to carry her own child, but doesn’t have any viable eggs, so uses an egg donor but may not necessarily need a surrogate

Being a gestational carrier is:

  • Being matched with known intended parents through an agency or through self-matching

  • Having had your own children that you gave birth to is a requirement

  • At least a 12-month commitment (after adding in matching, legal, and preparation for embryo transfer, more like 14 months – 18 months)

  • In no way genetically related to the embryo (except for in very particular cases)

  • For surrogates aged 21 to 40

  • Compensated usually between $20,000 and $45,000 

  • For intended parents who are not able to carry their own babies

All the differences aside, egg donors and surrogates do have some similarities for qualification. It is important to have regular menstrual cycles, to be physically and emotionally healthy, be a non-smoker and not using certain prescription or recreational drugs. But most importantly, they both have to be ready to make a huge commitment to helping someone on the journey to parenthood! 

Want to learn more on how you can be a part of helping to grow a family?