Israeli couple makes news, but Indians reluctant on surrogacy

November 18th, 2008 - 8:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 18 (IANS) An Israeli gay couple may have made a splash in India by having their own baby through surrogacy, but the head of the institute here that made it possible rues that very few childless Indians actually go in for the procedure despite the best of facilities.”A majority of our patients who opt for surrogacy are foreign nationals. Of this, about 18 percent are gay couples. There is not a single Indian,” Kaushal Kadam, scientific director at Rotunda - The Centre for Human Reproduction, told IANS here.

It was Rotunda that made the dream of Israeli gay couple Yonatan and Omer Gher’s dream - to have a baby of their own - come true. Yonatan was the donor. The two returned to their home country Monday with their one-month-old son Evyatar.

But according to Kadam, despite this highly successful surrogate pregnancy and many other cases, Indians are yet to completely accept surrogate mothers and such pregnancies.

In India, surrogacy for same sex couples is legal and administered under the guidelines of the Indian Council of Medical Research. It has become more popular in the past couple of years, thanks to the awareness created by the media, explained Kadam.

Also, as compared to the US, in-vitro fertilization (IVF - which helps in surrogate birth) in India is much cheaper. While in the US, a single IVF delivery might cost around $35,000, it comes for barely $450 (Rs.20,000), Kadam revealed.

Rotunda, which specialises in third party reproduction, conducted their first IVF treatment for a gay couple back in 2006. Since then, the centre has been flooded with enquiries from abroad, about surrogate pregnancy, especially from gay couples and single men.

“In the last two years alone, we have conducted nearly 15 cases of IVF treatments for same sex clients, almost half of which are in different stages of successful pregnancy right now,” Kadam said.

The centre adopts a detailed process to identify the potential parents. When a client approaches, after conducting preliminary investigations into their backgrounds, the clinic provides them with the profiles of surrogate mother candidates.

Once the client makes his choice, donor sperms and eggs are fused together and injected into the surrogate mother.

“Thereafter, through the nine-month pregnancy term, we ensure the health and well-being of the surrogate mother, while sending regular updates and sonography reports to the prospective parents,” according to Kadam.

Even if the foreign clients return home during the interim (pregnancy) period, reports and updates about the progress of the pregnancy are e-mailed or informed on telephone. The client returns to Mumbai in time for the delivery of the baby.

Rotunda conducts nearly 25 IVF treatments in a year, with a success rate of 50 percent. The number of patients is low considering the 30 percent infertility rate across the world, doctors say.

Kadam feels the figure is going up, owing to modern lifestyles and late marriages. Greater awareness and openness is needed about options like IVF, especially in cases where natural births are difficult or not possible at all.

Most important, Kadam said family support systems and removing the social stigma associated with surrogate births are essential to give the procedure a much-needed boost.

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