Veritatem Surrogacy

The truth about surrogacy!

A lot of controversy has been found to surround the topic of Gestational Surrogacy, much of it due to the brouhaha between those actually dealing with these cases and those on the outside, trying desperately to sneak a peek and gain some understanding into the matter. Meanwhile the government has yet to decide and impose laws regarding this matter, even though India is already a hub for gestational surrogacy and as consultants in a private New Delhi clinic we deal with such patients on a daily basis. More often than not they are international as surrogacy in India is far cheaper for them than anywhere else.

We go through life in stages. First we are born, go to school, college, get a job, fall in love, get married, have kids, raise a family, retire, get old and what happens thereafter. Now imagine our patients, infertile couples, who are born just like everyone else, who go through life’s stages just like most people except that after they get married they are unable to have kids. So they try, they try one after the other doctor, procedure, drug, you name it. They keep trying. They never give up because you never know which treatment cycle will click. So if they’re lucky they conceive, if not they keep trying. They go round and round in circles unable to move on to the next stage of life because what will they do? With no family to raise, what do they do with themselves? Jobs last only so long. Most working couples these days come home to the sounds of silence. For some it becomes unbearable. So the process continues.

Imagine living majority of your adult life stuck in one phase. Terrible isn’t it? A to top it all, society never ceases to torment instead of empathizing.

This is where surrogacy becomes an option. Without going into too much scientific detail, in properly chosen patient’s, surrogacy can fulfill their dreams of having a baby. In a recent discussion at a recent India Woman’s Summit, Dr Kaberi Banerjee, Director and Senior Consultant in Reproductive medicine at Advanced Fertility and Gynecology Centre, Lajpat nagar-4, South Delhi, spoke against the various myths and exaggerations surrounding this topic. First and foremost being that Surrogates are not bonded laborers. They are adults, in compos mentis, married, with families of their own, otherwise healthy, but in need of financial aid in order to have a better life by setting up small businesses, educating their children, purchasing land, opening up shops etc. They Volunteer for surrogacy and are explained each and every aspect of it. Often being uneducated it is said they don’t understand clearly what they are doing, but that is not true. They are well aware of what they are doing, what it means to the other party and how it will benefit their own selves and their family. They are explained the entire process from A-Z including the financial settlement in details.

It is a mutually beneficial situation for both parties. The surrogates, most that we have at our center, have turned their lives around for the better with the money obtained from a successful pregnancy. IT is an opportunity, their womb being the resource. We are quite careful with our surrogates and they are given the best of care at NO expense of their own. It is false that surrogates are made to pay for illnesses/surgeries etc. Each and every aspect of care is covered by the clinic, be it a visit to the physician or the dentist. All medications are given free of cost by the clinic to the surrogate. All antenatal visits,ultrasounds, delivery charges are covered by the clinic. These women possess more inherent fecundity than subfertile couples and thus there is no question or need, whether by law or otherwise, of transferring more than 2-3 embryos in them.

Routine home checks are also conducted to make sure they are living in clean hygienic conditions and are getting adequate nutrition and care. The commissioning parents are given regular updates regarding the surrogate’s condition. Following delivery postnatal care is given to the surrogate till she finds herself fully recovered.
The fact of the matter is, it is difficult to formulate laws with regards to surrogacy, but that is no reason to abandon the procedure altogether. Uterine transplants to achieve pregnancy is nowhere near being an everyday procedure and thus the need for surrogacy. It gives all kinds of women, with or without uteri, a chance to have their own baby. These days, the cost of the procedure is quite reasonable, both for Indian and international patients. We have patients of all categories starting from middle classes to the very well off.

Instead we must strive to create strict laws and policies so that surrogates are treated in the correct manner and get what they deserve. They ought not to be exploited or cheated. The treatment given to them must be scientific and state of the art. All consents must be taken properly with full explanation to both parties of the implications. The media must be officially instructed to report only the facts and nothing based on heresy. They have a responsibility to listen to and report the absolute truth, instead of creating negative hype based only on the malpractices of a few practitioners or quacks. Such people are there in every field, but that is no excuse to generalize and say that all IVF doctors are doing what the malpractitioners are. Instead take a look at the genuine centres as well. Report their success rates, meet their patients and take the feedback.
There are few words, if any, that can describe the pure love and joy on the faces of the commissioning parents when they see and hold their baby for the first time and all the times thereafter. Everyone who is fit to raise a child deserves one. Whether the child grows in her own womb or another woman’s, what does it matter? Both are mothers.

When it rains, it pours!!!

There was a time, not too long ago, in my life, when I had stopped believing that anything good would ever happen to me again. Truth be told I was not living, merely existing, going from one day to the next on automaton. I was 35 years old, married since I was 21 and trying for a baby ever since. Unable to give my husband a child I felt like such a huge failure. However we kept trying. Going from one IVF centre to another, getting poked with needles, taking hormones shots, oral medicines, eating this food, avoiding that food, never having any fun, never really living our lives… this was our routine. After 9 failed IVFs, a host of surgeries, we decided to go to Advanced Fertility and Gynecology Centre in Lajpat Nagar – 4.
I was quite lost. As I sat in the neat and tidy waiting room belonging to Dr Kaberi Banerjee, I wondered how much longer I could go on for. I had nothing to say, does a total failure have the right to an opinion? Was I not supposed to just go on without anyone wondering how I was affected? So I went on.
As we met the doctor I was struck by her calming demeanour, her warmth and assurance. Here was a doctor who wanted to listen to us…not just brush us off!! She gave us a few options, one for another, last try at IVF with my own oocytes. After listening to her logical explanations, we agreed to go for it. However it was not to be…So Dr Kaberi suggested that we opt for a donor egg ivf cycle with surrogacy. The embryos were transferred into both myself and the surrogate.
2 weeks after the embryo transfer…by a miracle of God… both the surrogate and I had positive pregnancy tests, in fact it turned out mine was more strongly positive than hers…we found out why after further 2 weeks when an ultrasound was done and it turns out I was carrying TWINS! The surrogate was carrying a single fetus.
We could not believe our luck. We feel so grateful to Dr Kaberi for guiding us through the entire pregnancy and delivery. I delivered preterm at 34 weeks as I was carrying twins, and the surrogate delivered a week after me. IT was such a joy to be going home with 3 little babys. I had waited to be pregnant for so long and finally I was and I cherished every single moment of it, till it was over, even the aches and pains.
There are some feelings that cannot be expressed in words. How grateful we are, to Dr Banerjee, for helping us complete our family, what it means to us now, to hear the laughter of our little ones echoing in our formerly forlorn home…these things are priceless and no amount of money can ever repay her back for giving us the strength to go on, in her calm and gentle way.
People say a lot of negative things about surrogacy. But I disagree. I am fully aware at every level the kind of care that was being taken of my own surrogate by Dr Banerjee and her team. I have not seen the like. She was personally delivered by Dr Banerjee herself. The whole checkup, medicines, ultrasounds, hospital fee etc was covered in the package. What more could one ask for? The surrogate herself was given a generous fee and wanted to start up a small business with the same in order to improve her and her family’s life. There are many facets to this aspects of reproduction and one should not view it as black and white. The kind of joy it brings to both parties is very rare to find in today’s world. For us we just wanted one little baby and happily wound up with three!! WE could not ask for more in life. We are complete.