Will the Baby Look Like the Surrogate Mother
If you’re considering surrogacy to grow your family, you may wonder if your baby will look like the surrogate mother. It’s a fair question to ask, but interestingly, not so simple to answer.
That’s because several factors influence the physical appearance of offspring and determine whether the baby will look like the intended mother, surrogate, or someone else entirely.
In this blog post, we will explore the factors determining what a surrogate baby looks like including some basic genetics and trait inheritance, the dependence on traditional vs. gestational surrogacy, sperm source, and more.
By the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of what factors can influence a surrogate baby’s (or any baby, for that matter) physical appearance and have a good understanding of when the surrogate baby will look like the surrogate mother, when the surrogate baby will look like the intended mother, and when the baby may look like neither the surrogate nor intended mother.
The Basics of Trait Inheritance
Human genes are made of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) and are organized into structures called chromosomes . Each human has 46 chromosomes (23 pairs of chromosomes) inherited from their parent – 23 from the sperm and 23 from the egg. One pair is the sex chromosomes, known as the X and Y, which will determine the sex of the baby.
In the example below, you can see that the baby has a chromosome pair that is made up of one chromosome from the biological mom and one chromosome from the biological father and that each of those chromosomes contains genes from the baby’s grandparents that are mixed in unique ways during the creation of the sperm and egg.
image source: DrKnowledge
It’s this unique collection of all the biological father and mother’s genes that get mixed when the egg and sperm are developed and later combined that are the primary contributor to a baby’s looks.
The mix of the approximately 30,000 genes present on the chromosomes will largely determine the offsprings:
- eye color
- hair color and texture
- body shape
- muscle structure and type
Due to the blending of the DNA, children generally look like a combination of both biological parents. They may look slightly more like one parent or have a distinctive characteristic from a grandparent or relative on either side of the family. Still, most often, they’re an intricate combination of the two.
Now that we’ve covered the most important basics of traditional genetic inheritance, it’s time we examine the most important factor in determining if the surrogate baby will look like the surrogate mother, intended mother, or someone else.
Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy
Generally speaking, there are two main surrogacy types: traditional and gestational.
Traditional Surrogacy: In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is also the child’s biological mother. This is because the surrogate’s eggs are used (in combination with the intended father’s or donor’s sperm) to conceive the baby.
This is very uncommon in the united states though it is the first type of surrogacy “invented” with references as old as the bible. Traditional surrogacy can be achieved through intercourse with a surrogate or some kind of insemination (intracervical insemination or IUI). Traditional surrogacy, while practiced for thousands of years and in some cultures and parts of the world today, is considered taboo by some.
Gestational Surrogacy: In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother is not biologically related to the child. This is possible thanks to IVF technology, from which the first human was born in 1978. In IVF, a woman’s eggs are removed from their ovaries, fertilized in a lab, and then placed back into their own or another woman’s uterus.
This is the most common type of surrogacy today in the US and other modernized societies and the only kind of surrogacy most agencies, including Surrogate Steps, facilitate.
Importance of Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy on Baby’s Looks
Whether or not the baby looks like the surrogate mother depends on the type of surrogacy used.
In traditional surrogacy, the baby will share at least some physical attributes with the surrogate because the baby is genetically related to the surrogate. Of course, the genetics of the father (or sperm donor) and the interplay of dominant vs. recessive genes will play a role in the baby’s physical appearance.
In contrast, with gestational surrogacy, the baby is not genetically related to the surrogate mother. This means that the baby will not look like the surrogate mother. The exception would be if the surrogate mother shares a physical resemblance with the biological mother; in that case, the baby could share some physical characteristics with the surrogate.
If using gestational surrogacy, the baby’s exact appearance depends on the sperm and egg used to create the embryo. Depending on the sperm and egg used, the baby can look like a combination of both intended parents, one of the intended parents, or neither.
- If the sperm and egg are both from the intended parents: the baby will likely look like a blend of both intended parents.
- If the sperm is from the intended father and the egg is from a donor: the baby will likely look like a blend of the father and the egg donor. Of course, the egg donor shares physical characteristics with the intended mother, and thus the baby may have some physical similarities to the intended mother.
- If the sperm is from a donor and the egg is from the intended mother: the baby will likely resemble a blend of the intended mother and the sperm donor. Of course, it is possible that the sperm donor shares physical characteristics with the intended father, and thus the baby may have some physical similarities to the intended father.
- If the sperm and egg are both from donors: the baby will look like a blend of the sperm and egg donor. Of course, it is possible that the sperm and egg donor shares physical characteristics with the intended parents. Thus, the baby may have some physical similarities to the intended parents.
It is also important to note that physical characteristics are not solely determined by genetics. Environmental factors like diet and lifestyle can also affect how a child looks. So, while genetics play a role in determining a child’s physical appearance, they are not the only factor.
The Bottom Line About What A Surrogate Baby Will Look Like
Far and away, the most important influence on what a surrogate baby (as with any baby) will look like is what the baby’s biological parents look like. If you consider the egg and sperm source, you can figure out what a child might look like with some accuracy.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s eggs are used. Thus the resulting child is biologically/genetically related to the surrogate mother and expected to look like the surrogate mother to some degree.
In gestational surrogacy, the intended mother’s or donor’s eggs are used. Because of this, the baby is expected to look like a combination of the intended mother/egg donor and the biological father. Of course, the child may share some characteristics with the gestational surrogate, particularly if the surrogate and intended mother/egg donor have common physical characteristics. This would, of course, not be due to any biological or environmental effect the surrogate has on the baby but because all involved parties are humans who naturally share some characteristics.