Surrogacy: A Historical Guide



Surrogacy, the practice of a woman carrying a pregnancy for another person or couple, is not a new concept, despite the modern technological advances that have shaped its current form. This historical guide to surrogacy offers a comprehensive exploration of the practice from ancient times to the present, providing insights into how surrogacy has evolved over time.

The Ancient History of Surrogacy

In ancient times, surrogacy was often practiced in societies where infertility was considered a significant problem. It was a way for couples to ensure continuity of their lineage, even in the face of fertility challenges.

Surrogacy in the Ancient Near East

The earliest recorded instances of surrogacy can be found in the laws and stories of the Ancient Near East. The Code of Hammurabi, dating back to ancient Babylon in 1754 BC, mentions the practice, while the Bible recounts the story of Abraham and Sarah, where Sarah's maid, Hagar, was used as a surrogate.

Surrogacy in Ancient India

In Ancient India, the practice of Niyoga was sometimes used as a form of surrogacy. In this practice, a woman who could not conceive would invite a man, usually a close relative of her husband, to impregnate her. This practice was seen as a duty to continue the family line rather than a commercial transaction.

The Modern History of Surrogacy

With advances in medical technology, surrogacy has evolved significantly in modern times. The development of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and gestational surrogacy has fundamentally changed the way surrogacy is practiced.

The Advent of Artificial Insemination

The advent of artificial insemination marked a significant turning point in the history of surrogacy. This technology allowed for pregnancies to occur without sexual intercourse, changing the dynamics of surrogacy arrangements.

The Development of In-Vitro Fertilization and Gestational Surrogacy

With the development of IVF in the late 20th century, it became possible to create pregnancies using eggs and sperm from individuals other than the surrogate. This allowed for the birth of the first "gestational surrogate" child in 1985. Gestational surrogacy has since become the most common form of surrogacy, with the surrogate carrying a child genetically unrelated to her.

The Future of Surrogacy

The future of surrogacy continues to be shaped by medical advancements, social attitudes, and legal regulations. Issues such as international surrogacy, the rights of surrogates, and access to surrogacy for different groups continue to evolve and will likely shape the future of surrogacy.


Surrogacy has a rich and complex history, shaped by cultural attitudes, religious beliefs, legal regulations, and medical advancements. Understanding this history can provide valuable context for those considering a surrogacy journey today.

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Furthermore, if you are considering starting your surrogacy journey, there is a free guide available that provides more detailed insights. Download your free guide at Embark on this journey with knowledge and confidence, prepared to navigate not only the medical and psychological aspects but also the rich historical context of surrogacy.


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