Nurturing life in a rented womb

SURROGACY

Sudha (name changed) is a first time surrogate mother. She can hardly communicate in Hindi. It is easy to se­nse fear in her voice.

But she still manages to keep herself composed. “I am perfectly fine and I don’t have any problem with what I am doing,” says Sudha, mother of two kids, reiterating “I feel good because I am helping somebody.”

Sudha is being paid for wh­at she is doing. “A surrogate mother is paid nearly Rs 3.5 to 4 lakhs. They are given hard cash,” says Dr Rita Bakshi, fertility expert, gynaecologist and chairperson, International Fertility Centre. “It does not include the cost of checkups, medicines and nine months of full care, including delivery in a decent hospital,” she adds.

In recent times, as has been reported often,women from the weaker section of society rent their womb in lieu of payment. They are either appro­ached by agents or people fr­o­m Assisted Reproductive Tec­­-hnology (ART) Bank which maintains a ‘bank’ of surroga­te mothers. “People from ART counsel women about surrogacy. It is not a one day job. They visit places, talk to wom­en and their family, as they have to be taken into consideration before they take a step forward. Above all, when one woman takes an initiative and sets an example, other women follow it,” says Dr Bakshi. 

However, there are still ma­ny needy women who come in­to the business via agents who charge half of the money. “Initially there were no regulations on surrogacy. But in 2013 certain rules were imp­o­s­ed to curb the activities of ag­ents. More so, as per new rul­es a woman cannot be a surrogate for more than three tim­es which includes her children too,” informs Dr Bakshi. 

Ironically, due to financial constraints women tend to put their health at stake to frequently become surrogates.

“It is not easy to find out the number of times a woman has become pregnant. They hide it. But certain agencies collect all the details. Even ART keeps a complete record of a woman who has earlier rented her womb,” says the doctor.

A surrogate mother is a woman who has a baby for another woman who is unable to bear a child. For the baby to be conceived the egg, sperm and uterus are important. The problem in conceiving arises when any of these is not biologically perfect. Surrogacy is preferred only when uterus is unable to harbour the foetus.

“Surrogacy and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) are good options to have a baby. Taboo is gradually disappearing as people are ready to accept it and are talking openly,” says the expert, pointing towards celebrities like Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, who had babies through surrogacy.   

Interestingly, even healthcare portals are noticing a rise in their page traffic for IVF and fertility-related queries. People are scouring the Internet for infertility and IVF specialists, reproductive endocrinologists, and sexologists. 

“The page traffic for this has been steadily growing at 24 per cent per month. In May 2014 alone we had 18,000 page views searching only for these specific terms,” says Shashank ND, CEO and co-founder, Practo.com.

“Yes, significant number of people are approaching health portals for fertility related information. We are noticing almost 2,500 – 3,000 appointments per month. This number is doubling every three months,” he adds. 

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