Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Womb on Hire

After IT outsourcing, it’s now ‘pregnancy outsourcing’ which is on the rise in India. Childless couples and singles, especially from the US, Europe and south East Asia are looking to India in a hope — to become parents.

Indian surrogate mothers are in big demand. A surrogate mother is one who gets paid for carrying babies of other couples who can’t conceive on their own either due to health constraints or age. Surrogacy is the process where an embryo (fertilized egg and sperm of the couple) is transferred to the surrogate mother’s womb through in vitrofertilization or IVF.

There are others like working women who don’t have time or can’t afford to become mothers or who simply don’t want to go through physical changes and health issues that come with becoming pregnant but strongly want to have babies.

Single women and men are also finding surrogacy the best way to have their own children with the help of either a donated sperm or egg as the case would require.

Surrogacy is developing into a kind of profession albeit for a short term as no woman in India can opt to be a surrogate mother more than thrice in her lifetime. A surrogate must not be over 45 years and should test negative to life threatening and genetic diseases including, HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B and C and thalassemia.

Mahua Dutta is a new entrant to surrogacy. The 33-three year-old from Delhi is helping a Frenchman by lending her womb to carry his child. Her baby bump has started showing. She is little over than two months pregnant and has come for a regular check up at Delhi IVF & Fertility Research Centre in a posh area of Indian capital New Delhi.
In this case, the parent-to-be is a single Frenchman. His sperm and a donated egg have been used to in the embryo which was planted in Dutta’s womb through IVF.
Dutta will receive minimum Rs 3.5 lakh for becoming a surrogate mother. But Dutta says she has not gone for surrogacy for an outright financial reason. For her, who has a nine-year-old son, surrogacy satisfies her emotional needs.

Her husband, who works in an IT company and at present is on a US trip, had straightaway said no to second child due to increasingly expensive lifestyle in Indian metro cities. “But the itch for becoming a mother was growing strong in me, especially when I came to know I had a bleak chance of conceiving after I went for a fibroid surgery in my uterus. By becoming a surrogate mother has reassured me that I’m not barren,” says Dutta.

Moreover, she feels second time pregnancy would make her feel important and get full attention and care of her husband as she got when she was expecting her first child. “Also, I’m bringing happiness to someone’s life,” quips she.

For Dutta opting for surrogacy maybe to quench her quirky maternal instincts, but for Preeti Singh (name changed on request) from a northern town of Allahabad it is a solution to lessen her poverty.

She delivered a child for a British couple in September last year. Six months after she had come to the IVF research centre again to donate her eggs that would fetch her Rs 25,000. She is thinking of going for surrogacy once again to ease her economic pressures and secure her children’s future.

Thirty-year-old petit Singh has two children. Her husband is a driver and earns Rs2,500 a month. “It was difficult to eke out two meals a day for the family,” quips Singh.

After delivering the baby when she was first handed in the cheque, it changed her life. It took care of all her pressing needs.
“Our worry to get the next meal for our children was solved immediately. Later, we built two small rooms, bought a bike and saved some money with a bank,” says Singh with a smile.

For her, earning Rs3.5 in nine months was a huge cache of money she could barely think of earning in her lifetime.
But for someone coming from the US or UK it’s a fraction of what they would have to pay in their own country.

“The cost of surrogacy in the US is about $80,000 whereas in India it’s only $18,000. The cost of IVF is $15,000 in the US and in India it’s $25,000,” said Dr Anoop Gupta, medical director Delhi IVF Research Centre.

It’s this relative cheap cost of medical treatment is what making India a hot spot for foreigners looking for fertility treatment or children through surrogacy.

Chui Sai Kit, 41, and his wife Zhang Zhenliang, 40, have come all the way from Hong Kong to this New Delhi clinic to have a baby through surrogacy.

Zhenliang has a history of abortions which she underwent while at the peak of her career. It was followed by multiple miscarriages. She can no longer conceive a baby. For them surrogacy is the only option left and coming to India is a “natural choice” for both of them.

“I looked up on the net and calculated the cost of surrogacy. India was comparatively cheaper than other countries and it’s nearby, just across the border,” says Kit.

The couple has already held a round of meetings with the surrogate mother. They will be at the clinic for three to four weeks until the healthy egg and sperms are extracted from them, fertilized and the embryo is transferred to the surrogate mother’s womb through IVF.

The couple is just one case. The clinic, which is always over packed with patients looking for fertility treatment, gets 20 clients on an average every month who want babies through surrogacy.

Dr Anoop has seen the trend increasing manifold in the last few years. The IVF clinic facilitated the first surrogate child in 1997. “In the beginning we did 2-3 cases a year. Now we are doing over 50 surrogacy cases a year,” says Dr Gupta

So far, the clinic has helped parents to have 4000 babies through IVF and over 400 babies through surrogacy.
About 90 percent of their clients are foreigners, including Hollywood personalities. Even though in India commercial surrogacy is legal they do surrogacy on case by case basis.

“We make our decision after talking to the expectant parents and observing their behaviour whether they would be able to take care of their babies or not. And if we feel that they won’t, we refuse them. Recently we refused a gay couple as we thought both partners didn’t fit the criteria of caring parents. Though, we do do surrogacy for gays, lesbians, single men and women apart from straight couples,” said Dr Gupta.

Apart from Delhi, Mumbai in Maharashtra and Anand in Gujarat are fast emerging as hubs for surrogate mother agencies and IVF clinics in India. The reasons for India emerging as a faourite destination for surrogacy are many.

The country boasts of best IVF services in the world and its English speaking nation makes it easy for foreigners to avail of the medical services. Moreover, it costs almost one fifth of what it would cost them in their own countries. This is giving a boost to medical tourism in India wherein foreigners can come here see around the places and can benefit from low-cost and world-class medical.

According to Indian Council of Medical Research commercial surrogacy will grow into $US 6 billion per-year-industry from its present $445 million-a-year business
The latest add-on to medical tourism, surrogacy seems to benefit all the parties involved in it—the childless gets parenthood, the surrogate gets financial benefits and the medical industry booms.

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