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History of Surrogacy

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Surrogacy has helped couples in having their babies since biblical times and it has evolved a lot since then. With the advancement in medical science, traditional surrogacy was replaced with gestational and commercial surrogacy. When questions were raised over its ethics, legal aspect was associated with surrogacy to safeguard child and surrogate.

Motherhood is bliss! It is one of the best experiences a woman can have in her lifetime. Giving birth to a child is a valuable moment for women across the world. But, unfortunately, not all women are able to give birth to a child due to some physical complications. The advancement in modern medicine has given a ray of hope to such women. Here comes the concept of surrogacy where other woman carries the baby in her womb for a mother who is not able to carry her child. The concept may sound new to many of us but in reality, surrogacy exists for nearly a century now. Surrogacy always existed in one form or another since biblical times. The history of surrogacy is very interesting and one can get to know about the same from this article.

Surrogacy in Ancient Times

The earliest reference of surrogacy is present in the 'The Book of Genesis'. Sarah, the barren wife of Abraham was unable to carry the pregnancy and hence her servant Hagar was asked to carry her child. The other instances of surrogacy can be found in Native American society where men were encouraged to procreate with a woman other than his barren wife to keep the family line continued. The child which was allowed to stay with the biological mother i.e. surrogate mother in the ancient times. But in modern era, surrogate mother has no right over the child once he/she is born.

Late 19th Century

The year 1884 saw the first successful artificial insemination and with this achievement another milestone was added in the history of surrogacy. At that time, the ethical viability of the insemination was questioned but this event pioneered the way for other inseminations to come.

Also, explore our article on the procedure of surrogacy to understand how does surrogacy help infertile couples in completing their family.

Late 20th Centur

After a hiatus of 91 years, in 1975, the first ethical embryo transfer was reported. Since then, the surrogacy as a form of reproduction has reached an unprecedented height. In 1976, Noel Keane, a Michigan lawyer arranged surrogate motherhood for a couple. He drafted and created the legal contract to be signed between the surrogate mother and intended parents. It was a case of traditional surrogacy and the surrogate mother didn’t receive any payment for bearing the child. Noel Keane is also referred to as the father of surrogacy. Using his experience, he opened several clinics countrywide and became a pioneer in the history of surrogacy in the United States.

The year 1978 added another landmark in the history of surrogacy when the first baby through IVF transfer was born. Two years later, the first compensated surrogacy agreement was signed between intended parents and a surrogate mother. This surrogate mother was paid $10,000 to carry a child for another couple. Later she regretted her decision and penned her emotions in a book named Birth Mother under the pseudonym Elizabeth Kane.

In fact, many celebrities around the world have utilized the treatment of surrogacy in completing their family. Want to know about these celebrities. If yes, then give a sneak peek to our article on celebrities who used surrogacy.

The Famous Baby M case

The history of surrogacy for the first time saw the inclusion of legal aspects between surrogate mother and intended couple. In 1984, a couple named Bill and Besty Stern hired Mary Beth Whitehead as the surrogate mother. Whitehead was compensated $10,000 for being a surrogate mother. Once the baby was born, she refused to sign over the legal document and took over the custody of the child.

During this traditional surrogacy, Whitehead’s egg was being used. Therefore, she was the biological mother of the baby. It was natural for her to have an attachment with the child and complications arose. She refused to sign the legal contract of surrogacy prepared by the famous lawyer named Noel Keane. Instead in 1986, she filed a legal case against the couple.

The final verdict of this case shocked the entire world, as the court considered this surrogacy illegal. Besty Stern was given the custody of the child and surrogate mother was given visitation rights. Following this verdict, gestational surrogacy became more prevalent where the egg and sperms are taken from the intended couples only. This case in the field of surrogacy made the US government to implement some of the stricter laws for surrogacy.

Rise of Gestational Surrogacy

This was the time when the legal case started in 1984 was going on, but then in 1985 the first successful baby was born with the help of gestational surrogacy and couples then started opting for the same from hereon.

Later Stages of Surrogacy (2004 – 2008)

With the dawn of the millennium, the surrogacy became more mainstream and as per an estimate, around 5,000 children were born in the US through the mainstream.

Surrogacy in India

Surrogate mothers are actively taking part in helping couples since decades, but then the utilization of surrogacy is growing due to benefits, which it provides to the couples so that they can conceive their own babies. The history of surrogacy in India comprises of different phases.

  • In the 1800 BC, the first evidence of surrogacy was seen which paved the way for surrogacy.
  • In India, Kanupriya famously known as Durga was born with IVF procedure on October 3, 1978 in Kolkata. This was the time when the couples started looking for the best solutions in the field of artificial reproduction assistance for the birth of babies and forming their happy families.
  • Surrogacy started since that time, but couples need to know that no strict laws were formed with respect to surrogacy at initial stages.
  • In 2002, the commercial surrogacy was made legal in India, which attracted many international couples as well. This boosted India’s economy as well as helped needy couples in completing their family.

After the surrogacy started in India, it has got both the praise and criticism. Surrogacy is seen with many aspects involving legal, social and ethical issues. The commercial aspect of surrogacy was brought into existence to help surrogate mothers in receiving the deserving compensation for carrying the baby of an intended couple in their womb. Also, with the introduction of commercial surrogacy, the couples started valuing the efforts of the surrogate mother as well.

In the past few decades, the demand of surrogacy has increased to a great extent. Couples who were unsuccessful to have their own babies are now able to have their own ones with the help of the procedure of surrogacy.

Thus, the history of surrogacy is much interesting and kept on evolving with several edits and introductions of procedures and laws. If you want to learn more about surrogacy and other infertility treatments, then you can stay tune to ElaWoman and get to know more about various effective solutions of infertility.

Dr. Aanchal Agarwal

About The Author

Obstetrician Dr. Aanchal Agarwal

Dr. Aanchal Agarwal is an infertility specialist and gynecologist who has graduated MBBS from University of Delhi in 2001 and then pursued DGO from University of Delhi in 2004. Dr. Aanchal specializes in treating patients with IVF, IUI, High-risk pregnancy care and Normal vaginal delivery procedures. Dr. Aanchal Agarwal is at present practicing at BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Pusa Road, Delhi. You can find more information on


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Somdev Prithu

Aug. 24, 2018, 5:57 p.m. 4.5

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