Surrogacy 101

Surrogacy Terms to Know: What Is An Embryo?

Written by Caroline Shannon

January 11, 2023

Plus, details on egg donors, sperm donors, and other fertility-specific terms you should know.

So, you’ve started to research your surrogacy journey, huh? First of all—congratulations. Secondly, are you confused yet? 

Jokes aside, surrogacy is a wonderful experience. But it’s also one that involves myriad processes from the get-go, which can start to feel overwhelming. In fact, one of the first things you’ll run up against as you begin your journey is a host of fertility-specific terms, some of which you may be hearing for the first time. 

Keep reading for four terms we think you’ll want to know, including egg donor and sperm donor. Plus, what is an embryo anyway?

What is an embryo?

An embryo is an egg that has been fertilized by sperm. This early pregnancy stage occurs from approximately the moment the sperm enters the egg and successfully activates it to the eighth week after fertilization.

Related: What to Expect for Embryo Transfer as a Surrogate

Tell me more about egg and sperm donors.

An egg donor is a person who donates their eggs to a single person or couple who wants to become pregnant and requires ART. Similar to an egg donor (but with a different genetic material at play), a sperm donor is a person who donates their sperm to a single person or couple who wants to become pregnant and requires ART.

Related: What Disqualifies You From Being A Surrogate?

OK, how about this: What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a lab process that uses various medicines and procedures to collect eggs and sperm for fertilization outside the body in a laboratory. The resultant embryos are then implanted into a uterus. IVF is a method of assisted reproductive technology (ART) used by people who need help achieving pregnancy. It is one of the most widely recognized forms of ART.

While the process varies, it typically takes two weeks of medications to cultivate the eggs to grow and, once harvested, a week in the laboratory to nurture the embryos to maturity. Once frozen, they can be genetically tested or simply await the right time for an embryo transfer (which usually takes another 2 to 3 weeks of preparation with medication).

The bottom line: 

Before your surrogacy journey even begins, you’ll find that knowing basic terminology will help guide your experience. Consider checking out our other informative blog posts, such as Basic Requirements to Become a Surrogate and What is Surrogacy?

Keep Reading