Tag Archives: Infertility

Cashing in on ‘infertility’

With more and more childless couple resorting to Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to realise their dream of an offspring, newer avenues are opening up for desperate women to make quick money.

While becoming a surrogate fetches a poor woman about Rs.2 lakh, for those who do not want to take up long-term commitment of bearing a child becoming an egg donor has become a preferred alternative. Each time a woman donates her mature eggs, she is paid an amount of Rs. 25,000. ART technologies help a childless couple to get their genetic child through processes like test tube babies and surrogacy.

But those women, who cannot produce an ovum altogether, the only option left is to receive an egg from a donor. And with rising demand for such eggs, many women are coming forward to make a moolah.

“Earlier we had to solicit women to donate their eggs. But now they come to our clinic on their own, some of them regularly. We pay Rs.25,000 for each such donation. Regular donors often refer their friends or relatives to the clinic,” an official at a fertility clinic said.

But though donating eggs fetches handsome amount, it has its own set of problems. “To donate mature ovum, a woman has to undergo a hormonal therapy. Taking this therapy at frequent intervals can be very dangerous for the donor,” K. Anuradha of Anu Test Tube Baby Centre explained. “Due to the lack of proper monitoring mechanism, some poor women are donating their eggs almost every month by visiting different clinics each time. This practice can result in serious damage to the donor’s health,” she explained.

Plenty of choices

Childless couples, who want to receive an ovum from a donor, have plenty of choices. Though the identity of a donor is kept secret, parents can go through the complete profile of the donors, including their height, weight, complexion and even IQ levels, to choose an ‘egg’. And if money is not an issue, the couple can even give attractive physical traits to their surrogate baby by getting an egg from Caucasian women.

“Foreign couples prefer a Caucasian woman because of their attractive physical traits. They are flown down to the city in business class, stay in five star hotels and are paid about $5000,” a fertility clinic employee added.

This article was published in The Hindu on April 12

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‘Qualifications’ of a surrogate mother

Article published in The Hindu

Poor, widowed, abandoned, indebted, uneducated and desperate — these are but the ideal qualifications of a surrogate mother today.

For a barren couple who cannot find a surrogate in their own circles, the womb of this underprivileged woman that is on hire, is almost sacred. And with no paucity of deprived women in the State, the couple literally have a wide ‘variety’ of women to choose from.

From a poor woman’s age, looks, background to health, the choice rests entirely on the wanting couple. That apart, the lifestyle of this woman during the ten-month-long period of surrogacy all but depends on the couples’ diktat.

And finding these women, surprisingly, is no difficult task with numerous self-appointed ‘agents’ spread across the city. Acting as a conduit between the poor surrogate, prospective parents and fertility clinics, these agents are a busy lot.

For an unemployed, abandoned or widowed woman with a family to look after, the Rs. 2 lakh offered by agents, or in certain cases clinics themselves, even for bearing another’s child is no small amount.

Wretched situation

“The situation of women who have decided to act as surrogate mothers is wretched one. While earlier only widowed women with no means of livelihood were willing, it is a different scene today,” said Seshasai, a medical practitioner.

A self-certified doctor in Dilsukhnagar, Seshasai also doubles up as an agent and counsellor helping poor woman find an income in surrogacy. “It is a shame that, because of the money involved, husbands themselves are ready to leave their wives with us for nine months to act as surrogates today,” he added.

Although married and with children these women are forced to practically live in isolation, away from their families, throughout the period of pregnancy. “Commercial surrogates are discouraged from living with their families owing to the possibility of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases and other such reasons,” said Dr. K. Anuradha of Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

Commercial surrogates are kept in hostel accommodations maintained by agents or certain clinics themselves. Despite several issues and uncertainties involved in the process, poor women are today increasingly looking at surrogacy as a means of livelihood. “Almost nine years ago, I had to convince poor patients at my clinic about the monetary benefit of acting as a surrogate mother. Today, poor women from across the State are themselves convincing their kin to take up surrogacy for the money,” said Seshasai. And bringing in other women to act as surrogates too is not without its incentives. Every time a woman refers another to an agent for surrogacy, she receives a sum of up to Rs. 25,000, agents said.

 

Once a taboo, surrogacy gaining acceptance in Hyderabad

Article in The Hindu

Nemmani Sreedhar and Pavithra S Rangan

Once literally a taboo, the idea of barren women ‘renting a womb’ to realise the joy of motherhood, is today being bravely embraced by the city.

Burgeoning fertility centres and their crowded premises here, bear testimony to the increasing acceptance of Assisted Reproductive Technologies, chiefly surrogacy.

Affordable procedures, latest technology, claimed success rates, and importantly, the ease in finding women willing to rent out their wombs in the city are incentives for women, not just from here but from across the world, to make Hyderabad ‘destination surrogacy’.

For a woman who cannot bear children, surrogacy is advised as a viable alternative wherein, a couple can have a genetic child with the help of a friend, family member or a commercial surrogate, willing to bear their baby.

“Five years ago, we barely undertook one surrogacy case in a year. Today, we deal with at least two cases every month,” said K. Anuradha, gynaecologist, Anu Test Tube Baby Centre.

“Couples earlier shied away from revealing the child as one obtained from a surrogate mother. But now the society at large is much more open to this idea,” she added.

While surrogacy is indubitably a boon for many, the process is not an entirely clean one. Lack of any enforceable law and regulatory mechanism in the process has reduced parenthood into just another commercial venture.

Some clinics encourage friends or family of barren women to come forward and assume the role of a surrogate. However, others are providing poor women whose wombs can be hired, thereby aggressively promoting commercial surrogacy. They have also formulated attractive packages with a promise to practically ‘deliver’ a baby for a fixed sum.

“Many are unwilling to act as surrogates for their own friends and family. This is the prime reason why couples opt for commercial surrogates,” said M. Divakar Reddy, Managing Director, Dr. Padmaja Fertility Centre. “We provide women willing to bear others’ children by paying them a fixed amount, and an agreement is signed between the couple and the surrogate,” he pointed out.

Social stigma

Even as surrogates are willing to bear children for monetary reasons, he said that they are still wary of the social stigma attached to bearing another’s child. “We counsel commercial surrogates extensively to make them see the nobility in helping a barren couple,” he said.

Women willing to act as commercial surrogates are primarily those belonging to lower-middle class backgrounds and are barely educated. “Several of them come to the city from rural parts of the State. In dire need of money, these women are wiling to bear another’s child, despite the many risks involved,” Dr. Anuradha said.

Certain clinics also have tie-ups with online portals that advertise commercial surrogacy and scout for prospective parents from across the globe. The process being three times cheaper in India, these portals apparently have no dearth of customers.

This has been promoting ‘reproductive tourism‘ in Hyderabad as well as other cities in the country. A certain clinic in the city has, within a span of six months, taken up cases of 12 foreign couples wanting children through commercial surrogates.

Pregnancy itself is a process involving several risks and surrogacy is no exception. In case of any eventuality to the surrogate during pregnancy, there are no laws or mechanisms to protect her. There is a need for a strong legislation to regulate the practice,” Dr. Anuradha said.

In a system involving conniving agents and clinics, a surrogate merely gets one-fourth of the total amount that a wanting couple is charged. But numerous physical and psychological risks that she is forced to bear during the process outweigh the commercial gain.

But is surrogacy the only option for a barren couple? Doctors believe that couples are opting for surrogacy because alternatives like adoption warrant an extremely cumbersome procedure. While adopting a girl child takes up to one-and-a-half years and for a boy the process is two-and-a-half years, doctors say couples prefer surrogacy, which in less than year gives them their genetic child.

Easing adoption laws and sensitising society at large, they say, can put at bay rampant malpractices surrounding surrogacy.