Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple or person. This woman may be the child’s genetic mother (called traditional surrogacy), or she may carry the pregnancy to delivery after having an embryo, to which she has no genetic relationship whatsoever, transferred to her uterus (called gestational surrogacy). If the pregnant woman received compensation for carrying and delivering the child (besides medical and other reasonable expenses) the arrangement is called a commercial surrogacy, otherwise the arrangement is sometimes referred to as an altruistic surrogacy.

In a traditional surrogacy the child may be conceived via home artificial insemination using fresh or frozen sperm or impregnated via IUI (intrauterine insemination), or ICI (intracervical insemination) or In Vitro fertilization (IVF), performed at a health clinic.

The social parents (that is, those that intend to raise the child) may arrange a surrogate pregnancy because of homosexuality, female infertility, or other medical issues which may make the pregnancy or delivery impossible, risky or otherwise undesirable. The social mother could also be fertile and healthy, and prefer the convenience of someone else undergoing pregnancy, labor, and delivery for her. The intended parent could also be a single man or woman wishing to have his/her own biological child. In Nebraska, involuntarily childless couples are encouraged to adopt instead of looking for a surrogate. However, this idea is not always a practical one—adoption is a long, expensive process. Adoptions typically require the individuals to be married, of a certain age, and sometimes married a certain number of years before they are even considered for adoption. Some agencies may prohibit adoptions based on disabilities and sexual orientations, and also may require one of the new adoptive parents to stay home with the adopted child for a certain amount of time following the adoption.

It is encouraged for the woman wanting to be a surrogate mother to be financially stable. This would prevent woman wanting to become surrogates due to financial need and also would minimize possible exploitation. However, it is historically unlikely that prospective parents would hastily choose a possible surrogate who was not financially reliable.

A large controversy is the impact of a future relationship that the surrogate might have the child after it is born. It is a cultural assumption that normal women do not become pregnant with the premise of being reimbursed monetarily, and that women naturally develop a bond with the child they give birth to. The legality of surrogacy arrangements vary widely between jurisdictions.

Although the majority of infertility causes can be remedied through either conventional medical and surgical treatments or In Vitro fertilization (IVF), there are some conditions that prevent a woman from being able to carry a pregnancy. In years past, classical surrogacy has offered these women a chance to raise children. This procedure, which involves the insemination of a surrogate with the sperm of the infertile woman’s partner, raises a number of complicated ethical and legal issues because the baby is the genetic child of the surrogate.