SurrogacyIndia’s focus is in fertility, not infertility. Making babies, is possible. ‘Possible’ is what we believe in.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kids should know what goes into the test tube that created them

"The right to become a parent" is an expression I heard for the first time 10 years ago when I interviewed Seiko Noda, a Liberal Democratic Party legislator who was receiving infertility treatment at the time.

Discussing the extent to which assisted reproductive technology should be regulated by law, Noda called for minimal "state interference" in people's right to become parents.

She argued strongly in favor of legalizing surrogacy in Japan, even though she was well aware of the unpopularity of her position. She fully anticipated her opponents would point out the physical risks of surrogate motherhood and the likelihood of women coming to be seen as baby-making tools once surrogacy is legalized. But, Noda insisted, the decision to become a surrogate mother or not should be left entirely to each woman.

Japan is still without definitive laws with regard to assisted reproductive technology. A bioethical issue is not one that can be resolved by simply adding up the interests of the parties for or against the new technology and then dividing the sum by two. And while the nation's political and bureaucratic leaders remain stuck in the same place, they are being left way behind ongoing developments.

A nonprofit organization announced July 27 that two couples have produced fertile eggs through in-vitro fertilization, in which their husbands' sperm was used with the eggs from anonymous women, donated through this NGO. This is said to be "wonderful news" for women whose illnesses prevent them from conceiving with their own eggs.

These are reportedly the first two cases of successful in-vitro fertilization in Japan using eggs from anonymous donors. Past cases involved eggs donated by sisters of the women undergoing the procedure.

We need to think about so-called test-tube babies. Many children have been conceived and born to date through in-vitro fertilization using sperm from anonymous donors, but some of these children are known to suffer later in life for not knowing their genetic roots. I imagine they feel as if they have been uprooted, with the ground crumbling under their very feet. My heart goes out to them.

The right to become a parent should not be denied. At the same time, children's "right to know their roots" must be fully guaranteed, even though I firmly believe, in one part of my heart, that genuine parent-child relations can and do exist in the absence of blood ties.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Couple who endured heartache of six failed IVF attempts finally have three healthy babies thanks to injections of soya and egg yolk

  • Rob and Jennie Macphee began IVF in 2008, the day after getting married
  • Over two years they suffered six failed attempts and one miscarriage
  • Later found Mrs Macphee's strong immune system was attacking embryos
  • She had injections of soy and egg products and became pregnant 
  • Twins Dylan and Niamh were born in 2011 followed by 10-week-old Orla

A mother desperate to start a family endured six failed IVF attempts  - only to discover her over-active immune system was attacking her babies.

Jennie Macphee and her husband Rob, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, began trying for a baby immediately after they got married in 2008.

The couple had been warned that despite the fact they were still in their 20s, they may experience problems conceiving after Mr Macphee, 35, had surgery as a teenager.

They saved for IVF, but faced the heartache of six failed attempts and one miscarriage over the course of two years - at a total cost of £21,000.

After researching alternative types of IVF treatment, the couple later discovered Mrs Macphee's strong immune system had been rejecting the embryos, preventing them from implanting.

The nurse, who is now 34, began a course of intralipid therapy, where she was injected with soya and egg products to tackle 'killer cells' in her immune system.

Months later, the couple were delighted to discover they were expecting.
Twins Dylan and Niamh, now four, were born in 2011.

And they were followed by 10-week-old Orla, who was conceived using the same frozen embryos as her older siblings.

Mrs Macphee said: 'For years we knew that we may have trouble conceiving because Rob had an operation when he was younger, but we never imagined that I would be the reason why we were struggling to get pregnant.

'We had our first round of IVF on the NHS the day after our wedding day.

'We were hopeful because we were still in our twenties at the time, but it turned out to be unsuccessful.

'We saved some money for our next round and moved to a different clinic and we later had another four rounds. I also had a very early miscarriage.'

She said experts told the couple they were producing good embryos, but warned they wouldn't implant.

'It was a very difficult time for us,' the now mother-of-three, said. 'We were nearing our 30s and our friends began having children.

'It was difficult to watch at times but it made us more determined.'

After two years of difficulties, the pair visited an IVF specialist who told Mrs Macphee her chances of conceiving were less than eight per cent because her immune system was so strong it was destroying the embryos before they had chance to attach.

'I had never considered that my immune system was preventing me from having a successful pregnancy,' she said.

'I had never heard of it before and when the consultant told me I had an eight per cent chance of having a live pregnancy I just thought "oh my God".

'I couldn't believe it.'

The couple gathered enough money to fund an alternative course of treatment that would attempt to weaken Mrs Macphee's immune system.

She began having intravenous doses of egg and soya products every fortnight for three months, and in September 2010 the couple discovered she was pregnant.

'We took the pregnancy test before we attended a friend's wedding and we were delighted,' she said.

'We didn't dare feel too excited because we had been there before.

'The first scan was absolutely mad. My husband and I were looking at each other in complete disbelief.

'When we were told we were having twins everything felt perfect.

'We had always wanted more than one child and we had been trying for so long.

'When the twins were born we brought them home in their car seats and put them together in the living room. It was a lovely feeling and we were so ready for them.

'We asked the clinic to keep some of our embryos in case we wanted to try again but we'd convinced ourselves it wouldn't happen again.

'At the end of last year I'd become broody again so we decided to go back and start the treatment.'

The couple said they couldn't believe it when the treatment worked first time.

Orla was born in May, and the twins are preparing to start school in September.

Mrs Macphee said: 'Our family is complete now.'

Miss Maha Ragunath, medical director at CARE Fertility in Nottingham, said: 'To endure multiple failed implantations or miscarriage is devastating and our experience has shown that some women may benefit from specific blood tests to check for abnormalities in their immune system.

'We are looking for an increase in natural killer cells which are implicated in failure of embryo implantation and miscarriage.

'We would typically offer these tests to women over 35 who have had two miscarriages or two failed IVF cycles, perhaps previous immune problems such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

'If a problem is identified, treatment is quite straightforward. In Jennie's case, we prescribed intralipid therapy which is a solution based on egg and soya products as part of her IVF cycle.

'Given in drip form by a trained nurse, the infusion is inexpensive, well tolerated and is shown to calm down an over-active immune system, allowing an embryo to implant in the womb. Eating more eggs or soya doesn't work.

'If a pregnancy test is positive, intralipid can be given every four weeks until the twelfth week of pregnancy to allow normal development and prevent miscarriage.

'There are many causes of treatment failure in IVF and miscarriage and each patient needs individual assessment, but if an immune issue is found, we do have treatment available.'


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

DNAForce Announces Free DNA Testing for Parents of IVF Children from July 27 to July 31 at Downtown Toronto Office

Many people aren't aware that children of in-vitro fertilization are routinely denied entry into Canada or the US because they cannot prove a genetic link with the mother. Hoping to help offer a solution to this serious problem is Toronto's DNAForce, who today announced that from July 27th to July 31st they will be offering a free DNA test to parents with a fertility clinic receipt.

Parents with children of in-vitro fertilization often face unique challenges, some of which can arise unexpectedly. One, that can be very disruptive, is the fact that in a number of countries, including Canada and the United States, children of in-vitro fertilization can be denied citizenship or even entry into the country for failure to provide a DNA test proof of parentage. Stepping up to help solve this very serious problem for families in Canada is DNAForce Inc. Today, DNAForce announced they will be providing free DNA testing to parents of IVF children, who call in to schedule an appointment and are able to show a fertility clinic receipt. The appointments will offered between July 27th and July 31st at DNAForce's Downtown Toronto office.

“I was very surprised to learn that children conceived with IVF can be denied entry into Canada,” commented Alexandre Harvey-Tremblay, owner/operator of DNAForce. “We are offering free DNA testing to IVF parents in order to raise awareness of this important issue in Canada. I hope that many families can take advantage of this offer. Please share this information with any parent of IVF children that you know.”

According to DNAForce, having access to DNA testing results can help a family in a number of ways, including the following situations: if the either sperm or eggs were donated by a Canadian citizen, the child will be eligible for citizenship; Canadian couples, who go through the IVF procedure due to low fertility issues can prove that they are the biological parents of the child.

DNAForce is one of Canada's leading DNA testing companies, offering a wide range of DNA testing for parental and other types of relationship at very affordable price points.


1st IVF with 3rd-party donor eggs carried out in Japan

In vitro fertilization treatment using third-party eggs has been carried out for the first time in the nation, a nonprofit organization promoting fertility treatment through egg donations said Monday.

Egg donations in the country had previously been limited to between sisters or friends.

The latest case involved two couples. Eggs provided free by two donors were used for combining with sperm from the husbands of two women in their 30s suffering premature menopause, the Oocyte Donation Network (OD-Net), based in Kobe, said.

After monitoring the donors for about six months for symptoms of infectious diseases, the fertilized eggs, which have been frozen, will be transferred to the two wives as early as this year.

The two donors are in their 30s. They were selected from a number of applicants.

The ethics committee of the Japanese Institution for Standardizing Assisted Reproductive Technology gave its go-ahead to the third-party egg donations before the end of April this year.

After the approval, a fertility clinic, a member of OD-Net, administered ovulation-inducing drugs to the two donors, in order to collect multiple eggs from them, carried out in vitro fertilization using these eggs and the husbands’ sperm, and froze the fertilized eggs.

For this kind of fertility treatment, OD-Net sets conditions, such as allowing any children born as a result to get information about the donors in the future.

OD-Net matched up third-party egg donors with a total of 23 couples facing fertility problems. Of them, 13 couples stopped short of receiving egg donations due in part to family opposition to the conditions set by OD-Net, while eight couples are moving forward with the procedures to implement in vitro fertilization using donor eggs.

One of the two couples who received third-party egg donations said, “We cannot thank the donor enough.”

“We were most concerned about the physical burden for the donor,” the couple said. “Now, it’s our turn to work hard.”


Northumberland woman gives birth after 20 year wait thanks to 25p malaria drug

IVF treatment and a malaria pill helped Northumberland mum's dream come true as she gave birth to baby boy

A malaria drug that costs just 25p has helped Laura Burnage have the baby she has waited more than 20 years for.

Holding her nine-week-old close, the new mum today told of his miracle arrival, two decades after she suffered her first miscarriage.

In the years that followed, Laura underwent the heartache of losing five babies but refused to give up hope that one day her longed-for child would arrive.

And that successful arrival is down to a 25p malaria tablet that enabled her to carry a baby full-term for the first time.

Laura, 46, said: “I still can’t believe he’s here. I just keep looking at him. I can’t take my eyes off him.

Children’s mental health nurse Laura suffered her first miscarriage when she was just 26 and married to her first husband.

That was followed by another two years later – and a third when she was 37.

Seven years later, after starting a relationship with self-employed builder Simon Burnage, 51, the couple began trying for a baby.

However, since Simon had already undergone a vasectomy, they went to a fertility clinic for help.

The pair, who live near Morpeth, Northumberland, visited Care Fertility in Manchester and had a first course of IVF, although Laura did not become pregnant.

She recalled: “That was devastating. I’d pinned all my hopes on the treatment. When it didn’t work it was heartbreaking.”

As they prepared to start their second course, scans revealed a blockage in one of Laura’s fallopian tubes, which deliver eggs from the ovaries. She had to undergo surgery to have both tubes removed, delaying IVF by six months.

After finally going ahead, the treatment proved a success but, sadly, just seven weeks into her pregnancy, Simon and Laura lost their baby. A third attempt in May last year again resulted in pregnancy but the couple lost the baby straight away.

Laura said: “Even though this was all happening, I never gave up. To be honest, I didn’t think it would happen, but I still clung to some hope.”

Laura underwent more tests in June last year and it was discovered she had a genetic mutation and a raised level of natural killer cells in her body. Known as NK cells, they are a key part of the immune system, but it turned out they were attacking the pregnancy, seeing the foetus as a foreign body.

In the hopes of stopping future attacks, Laura was prescribed an anti-malarial drug, which helps lower the immune system response.

And after a fourth course of IVF in September, the couple were told they were expecting again.

Baby Miles was delivered at eight months by caesarian in May, weighing a healthy 7lb 7oz.

Laura said: “I was so anxious all the way through the pregnancy that he was not going to make it.

“Now he is here, I just think it is incredible. Medical science has come so far. If this was 30 years ago, I would still be childless.

“I keep looking at him and thinking to myself “is he really here?”.

“I only hope our story helps other couples who may be going through something similar.”

The treatment has cost the couple more than £30,000, but it is money well spent according to the couple who are now enjoying life with Miles, who turns nine weeks old on Tuesday.

Mr Rashmi Patel, consultant in Reproductive Medicine at Care Fertility in Manchester, said: “Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug but can also be used as an anti-inflammatory preparation for auto-immune conditions like arthritis or lupus.

“Because of Laura’s history, we prescribed a combination of heparin and hydroxychloroquine to increase the chance of pregnancy.

“I’m delighted to hear that after such a long wait, Laura and Simon finally have their much wanted baby. Laura’s case illustrates the importance of careful screening and testing prior to IVF.”


Monday, July 27, 2015

'Functioning of IVF Clinic Won't be HIT'

The functioning of the In Vitro Fertilisation Clinic at Sree Avittom Thirunal (SAT) Hospital here will continue without any hindrance and the government plans to upgrade the facility into a Department of Reproductive Medicine, Health Minister V S Sivakumar told the Assembly on Friday.

 Sivakumar was replying to a submission by V Sivankutty of the CPM, who urged the government to ensure that the clinic functions effectively in the wake of the unit’s head being transferred to the proposed Medical College in Konni.

 “The IVF clinic is the first successful one of its kind in the government sector in south India. As many as 18 children were born after couples sought treatment in the facility. It is a big boon for economically weaker sections, for whom IVF treatment is unaffordable,” Sivakumar said.

 The Health Minister said that the government was committed in ensuring that the clinic functions smoothly. “Dr Sheila Balakrishnan, who headed the IVF unit, was promoted and transferred to Konni Medical College. Her transfer will not affect the functioning of the facility as other doctors at SAT have been adequately trained in this discipline,” Sivakumar said.

 The Health Minister said that it was the UDF government’s policy to set up IVF clinics in all medical colleges of the state. “The work for setting up an IVF clinic in Kottayam Medical College is underway and the next facility would be set up at Kozhikode Medical College,” he added.


Outsourcing motherhood: India's reproductive dystopia

It's early morning in the mid western state of Ohio in the US, but Michael Morris (name changed on request), 54, is excited to talk about his "India experience". About six months ago, Michael and his wife, in her early 50s, had a daughter through a surrogate mother in Delhi. "The medical aspect was first rate; we were able to see the surrogate mother, she was healthy; everything went well," Michael tells me over the phone, before pausing and adding, "I know many people would not have had an experience like ours. But there are reasons for that."

For one, Michael says he had travelled through Asia before, and so, unlike "other Westerners", wasn't "intimidated" by the country and "the way things work here". More importantly, Michael says the couple had a "great facilitator" who arranged everything from the drive from the airport to a good IVF clinic in India. "Having a baby in international surrogacy is much like dealing in the stock market; if I know I have a million dollars to invest, I need to go to a good broker," he says.

For many, however, the 'investment' in transnational surrogacy has hardly brought the desirable 'returns': recently, an American gay couple who had hired a surrogate in Delhi found out that one of their twins had STD; in 2011, an Australian couple found out after a DNA test that the baby they were about to take home wasn't theirs. Last year, yet another Australian couple decided that they could only afford to take one of the twins born out of surrogacy. Their decision to abandon one of the babies  rendered the baby boy "stateless". Earlier this year, Australians were barred from pursuing commercial surrogacy in India.

In the booming business of gestational surrogacy in India, where IVF clinics promise "five-star medical facilities", "high success rates" and "extensive choice" for infertile couples, stories of DNA mismatches and abandoned babies, and several unscrupulous practices being followed by IVF clinics only seem to suggest that commercial surrogacy in the country is almost in a state of lawlessness.

The 'dystopia' can be put down to a rapid, and unregulated growth in the number of IVF clinics offering a range of infertility services - quoting the National Commission for Women's statistics, a 2012 study by the Delhi-based NGO Sama Resource Group for Women and Health states that there are about 3,000 fertility clinics in India. The absence of regulation is also evident from a recent notice served by the National Human Rights Commission to the Union Health Ministry and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)  -  the notice  states that, in Delhi alone, out of the 300 clinics, only 39 are registered with the ICMR. While those within the industry concede that the demand for infertility services is rising in the domestic sector as well, a substantial chunk of the surrogacy market is dominated by clients from countries such as the United States, Australia, Israel and Japan. The money is big, and monitoring and regulation, lax. "Many IVF clinics are making their own rules, and existing guidelines are routinely being flouted," says Delhi-based advocate Anurag Chawla, who heads the firm Surrogacy Laws India.

Even as the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010, is still to be passed in the Parliament - the Bill has been in the making for at least five years now - the industry is currently governed by a set of guidelines, which are not legally binding. Consequently, there's no monitoring mechanism, argues Chawla, leaving the field fertile for many clinics to resort to unscrupulous practices.

Chawla says that at the clinic of a certain South-Delhi doctor, one of the standard practices entail introducing a single surrogate mother to multiple commissioning parents. "After the surrogate mother would be impregnated with one of the couple's embryos, others would be told that the embryo transfer for their surrogate mother had failed. The clients would then be told that they needed to pay up for another IVF cycle. "Several unsuspecting couples would be duped this way because they had no way of knowing what really happened," says Chawla. The clinic, he says, is also known to have "faked complications" in the surrogate mothers' pregnancies to make the commissioning parents cough up more money.

Then, in 2012, for instance, the Home Ministry barred gay couples and singles from abroad to enter into surrogacy arrangements in India. "The ban led to a shift in business to countries such as Greece, Mexico, Cambodia, and Nepal. It's unfortunate that while the Supreme Court in the US has allowed gay marriage, India is still discriminating against single people and gay couples in terms of being able to access surrogacy," says Maryland-based Crystal Travis, who runs the World of Surrogacy, one of whose clients was Ohio-based Michael and his wife.

Travis, mother to two children born out of surrogacy in Gujarat, says that aside of dealing with this "discrimination", Indian policymakers also need to sit down with officials from other countries to ensure that legal requirements for children born out of surrogacy are standardized. This, she says, would save commissioning parents a lot of hassle, and prevent the babies from landing in a legal mess by accounting for their rights as well.

"While India puts the name of both the parents (including the non-genetic link) on the birth certificate, there have been cases where countries recognise only the genetic link. In such cases, the parents have had to adopt their own children, which is very offensive for them. Legal complications in a country such as the US has also given rise to situations where a couple splits before the child is born, and it leads to a complicated custody battle for the parent that is not genetically linked to the baby," says Travis.

Meanwhile, post the ban, Travis says she has had to move her surrogacy work to Mexico, but some Indian clinics "desperate" to host clients from countries such as Australia and Israel, did shift operations to Thailand (using Thai surrogates) and eventually, Nepal. Earlier this year, however, Thailand outlawed commercial surrogacy - because of the controversial case of a Japanese man fathering at least 15 children using different Thai surrogates.

The shift to Nepal was easy: Indian surrogate mothers could be transported across the border because Nepal doesn't allow its women to act as surrogates. Besides, in Nepal it is easy to get exit visas for the babies born out of surrogacy. "The clinics would have the gay couple arrive on a tourist visa [as opposed to a mandatory medical visa], take their samples, select the donors, and then leave. The embryo transfer would happen either in India or Nepal. The surrogate would be shifted to Nepal after a few months, and the delivery would take place in Nepal," says Chawla. This shift made international news after the Nepal earthquake and the subsequent evacuation of the Israeli gay couples and the babies, leaving the surrogate mothers behind.

A Delhi-based infertility specialist, who did not wish to be named, insists that all IVF clinics are not unscrupulous. In her experience, international clients can be difficult to deal with too. "One international couple didn't pay up for the services; they pulled a credit card fraud on us. After that, I just stopped doing surrogacy for foreigners. Most of my clients are domestic now. But I do know of several clinics doing surrogacy for gay couples from Australia and Israel in Nepal. They tell the women that all they need is a voter ID card, and they are good to travel to Kathmandu!"

In this messy state of affairs, however, it is the women who do the labour of surrogacy and egg donation - in an arrangement where they don't have enough power to negotiate terms or have access to enough information about the medical procedures -  who perhaps stand to lose the most.

In their zeal to produce results, many clinics are known to put the health of the surrogate mothers at risk. Those within the industry concede that there are instances of IVF clinics "timing births" to suit the convenience of foreign clients (by timing the C-section).

Another practice that many clinics are known to indulge in is multiple embryo transfers - up to nine (as opposed to three, according to the ART guidelines). The subsequent foetal reductions are associated with health risks for the surrogate mother, which the women themselves are
seldom aware of.

Living conditions of the surrogate mothers is also a big concern, says Chawla. Inside the Delhi High Court, Chawla sits in his chambers that he shares with another lawyer. He points to the room, and tells me that he has seen 10-20 surrogate mothers in a room "smaller than this" and being made to wait at the IVF clinic for several hours for routine tests.

There are also instances of discrepancies in payments being made to the surrogate mothers, and those that the commissioning parents believe is being paid to the former. Clients are charged much more for twins, while the surrogate mother is only given Rs 50,000 extra.

Deep Singh, who heads a Delhi-based ART bank says that with the rising demand for infertility services and a proliferation of service providers, the market is only set to get messier.  "Now, even those from smaller towns such as Hapur are getting interested in hiring surrogate mothers. Today, in a year, my agency could be handling 30-40 cases in Delhi alone," says Singh.

Newer clinics and ART banks are only inclined to make a quick buck. "Many are not even willing to wait it out so that the egg donors can be tested for diseases. There have been cases of HIV positive status being detected after the donation." Singh says that certain clinics and ART banks don't care to explain to women who are donating their eggs that they cannot undergo the procedure repeatedly because of potential health risks from injecting hormones.

The situation, it seems, is getting to some such as Singh. "This business has given me a lot of money; it's changed my life. I have been able to afford the things I could never have. But the way things are unfolding now, I will quit this industry soon. Next, I plan to start a dairy business," he says.


Labor promises LGBTI adoption rights

Labor has promised to give gay, transgender and intersex parents the same rights as heterosexual couples to access IVF, adopt children and enter surrogacy arrangements.

Former federal senator Louise Pratt, whose partner is a transgender man, moved two successful motions to commit a federal Labor government to seeking national agreement on these matters.

The party will also seek to make sure gay, transgender and intersex couples get equal recognition in any inter-country adoption agreements Australia is part of.


Physician, breed thyself

Dallas fertility doctor helped many couples before he and his husband created their own family

As an obstetrician with a specialty in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Julian Escobar has been helping others create families for years. Last year, he and his husband decided it was time to create their own family.

Since returning to Texas in 2008 for a fellowship at UT Southwestern, Escobar — the medical director of ReproMed Fertility Center in Dallas — has spent his days counseling couples about creating their families. Typically, straight couples will seek help of a fertility specialist when they’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year with no results. Couples older than 35 may seek his help after trying for just six months. Studies show couples undergoing fertility treatment exhibit the same level of stress as oncology patients.

Infertility issues can have several causes. For men, Escobar begins with a semen analysis; for women, he will make sure they are ovulating properly and that their tubes are normal. Solutions can include administering a pill or injection that promotes the ovulation of more than one egg to up the chances of conception; if the man is sterile, he’ll suggest use of a sperm donor. And if that doesn’t work, he might recommend in vitro fertilization — fertilize the egg in the lab and then transfer them back to the woman. (If the woman’s eggs are the problem, he may fertilize donated eggs from an anonymous donor and implant them in the woman.)

After discussing all these options — including their goals, deciding whether to buy eggs or freezing eggs for future conceptions so that the children will be biologically related — Escobar began to realize something: That he wanted to be a parent himself.

“I talked to couples about building families,” Escobar said. “I lived it everyday.”

He approached his husband, Pieter Verhoeven, about the possibility: “What about us?” he said.

Although he hadn’t worked with gay male couples before, Escobar knew it was being done — and all they needed was an egg and a uterus.

For legal reasons, they used an anonymous egg donor. Implanting someone else’s egg in a surrogate gives the surrogate less of a parental claim on the child, he said.

They decided to fertilize the donated eggs with semen from each of them, then did pre-genetic screening. Each fertilized egg was checked for a number of things, such as genes that predispose someone to certain types of cancers and for other abnormalities. A number of fertilized eggs remained.

“We each had normal male and female [fertilized egg] and wanted one of each,” he said.

The couple selected a male inseminated by one of them and a female by the other so they’d know when the children were born whose was biologically whose child. Through his practice, they found a surrogate and the two eggs were implanted successfully.

Now 7 months old, Escobar and Verhoeven are the proud daddies to fraternal twins — daughter Paloma and son Valentino. But even before they were born, the couple worked to secure their legal rights.

During the pregnancy, their attorney established parental rights for each biological parent. Then working with a judge who was amenable to the idea, they set up second-parent rights for each of them. Escobar called his surrogate “a little angel for us,” and said she’s remained a friend who said she’s carry another set of twins for them if they decided to have more children.

They’ve additional frozen embryos, but haven’t made a decision about more children. With two 7-month-olds, having more children isn’t on the agenda right now.

Since the birth of his own children, Escobar has been anxious to help other gays and lesbians who want to start their own families. He took his current position with ReproMed earlier this year in part because the clinic welcomes all prospective parents — couples or singles, gay or straight — seeking help with fertility. “There are fabulous clinics that will shut the door in your face,” he warned.

Don’t waste time and money and get disillusioned, he said. Find a doctor or a surrogacy or adoption agency eager to work with the community. He said lots of obstacles can be overcome.

Escobar has worked with HIV-positive and sero-discordant couples as well, and notes that if the HIV-positive member has an undetectable viral load count, his sperm can be inseminated in the woman without infecting her or the child with the virus. He’s also helped HIV-positive women become pregnant. When their viral load count remained undetectable throughout the pregnancy, the virus wasn’t transmitted to the child.

After years of helping others create families, Escobar believes that becoming a dad himself is “the best thing I’ve ever done.”


Yunnan in Surrogacy Crackdown

The government of southwest China's Yunnan Province has launched a crackdown on illegal surrogacy.

Officials with the provincial Health and Family Planning Commission said on Friday that the six-month campaign, involving 10 departments, will focus on spotting and punishing medical personnel and intermediary agencies that help perform surrogate pregnancy services.

Online, TV, radio and print media that carry surrogacy advertising will also be targeted, while authorities will step up supervision over the sale and circulation of assisted reproductive technology (ART) drugs and medical equipment.

Surrogacy is banned in China, but wombs-for-rent businesses have thrived in the world's most populous country, where studies indicate an estimated one in eight couples face fertility problems.

Advertisements for surrogacy services are easily found on TV and the Internet, calling out to both infertile couples and prospective surrogates.

No official statistics are available on the number of agencies offering surrogacy services in China, but Guangzhou's Southern Metropolis Weekly newspaper estimated in April 2009 that around 25,000 children had been born to surrogates in the past three decades.

China launched a nationwide cross-department campaign to crack down on illegal surrogacy in April. A similar campaign against ART abuse was launched in 2013.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Costa Rica to regulate IVF after long row

San José (AFP) - Costa Rica's president will issue a decree to regulate in vitro fertilization (IVF) after a long legal battle, he said Wednesday.

President Luis Guillermo Solis said his office will issue regulations by September to comply with a regional court ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"I am going to take action since I do not want Costa Rica to face sanctions a second time" over failure to comply with the November 2013 ruling, Solis said.

Costa Rica, a mostly Catholic Central American nation that takes pride in its respect for civil liberties, has long been the only country in the Americas that bans the procedure.

Costa Rica has a date with the court September 3 to explain how it is complying with the ruling lifting the ban on the reproductive technology.

But its lawmakers, who should normally issue the regulations, will not be able to make the deadline given the still-controversial nature of the procedure, Solis said.

In vitro fertilization was banned in Costa Rica in 2000 under pressure from the Catholic Church. Some opposing couples sued the government over the ban.


President Komorowski signs IVF bill

President Bronisław Komorowski has signed a bill that regulates state funding for IVF treatment, although one aspect will be referred to the country's Constitutional Court.

“This bill has been awaited with hope by many Poles,” Komorowski said.

“That is why I signed it.”

The bill, which was passed in Poland's lower house of parliament on 25 June, and by the Senate on 10 July, has proved highly divisive.

Conservative opposition party Law and Justice flatly opposed the bill, as did the Roman Catholic Church.

The legislation allows for IVF treatment for infertile couples, both married or co-habiting, who have exhausted all other methods of treatment over a 12-month period.

Embryos capable of developing are not allowed to be destroyed.

The legislation follows a pilot IVF programme that was introduced in July 2013. This was done via a loophole in the law by which IVF was classified as an ordinary medical procedure such as a tonsillectomy. Over 2000 babies have been born as a result of the programme so far.

Constitutional Court

As a result of President Komorowski's intervention, the Constitutional Court will consider an aspect of the legislation concerning potential donors of gametes (mature sexual reproductive cells, eg sperm or eggs).

Under the terms of the legislation, minors and people who might be classified as incapacitated (such as leukemia sufferers) are theoretically allowed to be donors. Intensive treatment of leukemia can hinder a patient's ability to pro-create. Thus donating before it is too late can ensure the survival of healthy gametes.

However, the Constitutional Court will now analyse whether such a situation is compatible with Polish law, if a donor is potentially not capable of making an informed decision about the donation.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Five things you need to know before going to an IVF clinic

With IVF success rates in the spotlight, patients are worried. They don’t want to wind up like Victorian couple Sarah and James Leury who spent nearly A$100,000 on 12 cycles of IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) over five years.

After ten cycles, the Leurys switched clinics – from one that doesn’t disclose its success rate to a clinic that claims to be one of Australia’s best – and became pregnant after two more tries.

The problem is, clinics aren’t compelled to disclose their success rates, so it’s impossible to compare all clinics. Even when they do, the pretty graphs on clinic websites can be difficult to understand.

So how can you make sure you don’t end up in the same boat as Sarah and James? Well, keep reading for a scientist’s perspective on the key factors that influence IVF success and some tips for asking the right questions.

1. Pregnancy versus live birth rates

Unfortunately, along with fertility, IVF success rates decline as women get older. Across all clinics, the highest success rates are for women under 30, who have around a 26% chance of taking home a baby after each fresh cycle. Women over 40 only have around a 6% chance.

If that’s not bad enough, only 50% of “clinical pregnancies” for women in the over-40 age bracket will result in a “live birth”.

So when you look at clinic websites and you see the “pregnancy rate” displayed as opposed to the “live birth rate”, take note, especially if you’re over 40. While the industry may view pregnancy rates as a marker of success, the women who lost their babies may not.

Prospective patients should ask their clinic to disclose both the pregnancy and the live birth success rates for their age group. While there is no obligation to provide this information, it may reflect poorly on their service if they refuse.

2. Blastocyst cultures

Another predictor of success is whether blastocyst culture is used.

Traditionally, embryos were grown for only a few days until the “cleavage” stage. Nowadays, the aim of most treatment is to grow embryos for five days or until they make it into a blastocyst.

It’s like The Hunger Games for embryos; the best survive to the end and the weaker ones die off. This selection process makes it easier for embryologists to choose the best embryo for transfer, which, in turn, improves results.

But blastocyst culture can make some patients nervous. They don’t like the idea of scientists in the lab playing survival of the fittest with their future offspring.

Some also remain concerned that the lab doesn’t resemble the natural conditions closely enough and that some of the “weaker” embryos that are culled could have resulted in successful pregnancies.

While these concerns are understandable, there’s no scientific evidence that anyone’s “throwing the babies out with the bathwater”.

Blastocyst culture is generally recommended if you get a decent number of eggs. If you culture embryos only to the cleavage stage, you have less chance of success because it’s harder to pick the best one. Any excess “weaker” embryos get frozen along with the good ones. When you come to thaw them out, you don’t know which one you’re going to get. This also means you can end up spending thousands more on thaw cycles than you otherwise would have.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal preference, but buyer beware!

Also, be mindful that some clinics only show success rates for blastocyst transfers. If this is case, you should ask your clinic for their cleavage stage success rates too.

3. Sperm injections

The cause of infertility also plays a role in IVF success. Some male partners, for example, have a low sperm count and need intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This is where an individual sperm is injected into an egg.

Belgian Professor Andre Van Steirteghem, one of the pioneers of ICSI, thinks ICSI is overused. But patients risk having a failed fertilisation if they don’t use it. And with severe male factor infertility, donor sperm may be the only alternative.

Sometimes, when it’s unclear if a patient needs ICSI, the doctor will allow half of their eggs to be inseminated via standard insemination and half to be injected via ICSI. If you get enough eggs, this is something worth enquiring about.

4. Budget clinics

Using budget IVF clinics can also affect success. These have been described as “cheap and nasty” by some in the industry but that’s certainly not the case. You just need to know what you’re getting into.

Basically, budget clinics use low-dose hormone stimulation protocols so patients spend less on the drugs. But it’s generally only suited to younger patients. It also produces fewer eggs. This means fewer resources are required to perform lab procedures and that’s probably the real reason it’s so cheap.

In budget IVF, doctors aim to get about seven to ten eggs per patient. If the patient responds well, this number is fine. But that’s not always the result. If you get only a couple of eggs, you need to be aware you may not get an embryo for transfer or anything to freeze. Then you’ll have to start again.

Budget IVF patients should ask their clinic how they plan to monitor their response to the low dose. If you get a poor response it’s hardly worth the trouble.

Some people have also expressed concerns that the lab procedures in the budget clinics might be different from in the more established ones. Clinics generally claim they’re the same but it’s definitely worth enquiring about. There shouldn’t be any shortcuts, or hidden extras.

5. Lab standards

There’s also more than just biology involved in IVF. Embryos are highly sensitive to things such as changes in temperature and oxygen levels. These conditions need to be monitored tightly as their effect on success rates can be catastrophic.

Some embryologists have privately questioned whether different standards in laboratory quality might be one of the reasons for cases such as the Leurys'. It can cost a lot to get things right.

In Britain, clinics are required to publicly release their inspection reports. Australia should introduce this too.

In the meantime, patients should ask what steps their clinic takes to ensure their embryos are being looked after in the lab.

There are just so many things patients have to think about before embarking on IVF, and not all of them were talked about here. The most important point is that patients go in prepared and ask lots of questions as each clinic does things a little differently.

Knowledge is power, and IVF is expensive. While it’s awful to think of your future children as a transaction, modern IVF really is a case of buyer beware.


New UK Regulations allow mitochondrial donation IVF techniques in the UK

The UK government has passed new regulations which allow IVF clinics to be licensed to carry out techniques designed to eradicate the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child.

Mitochondrial diseases include diabetes mellitus, deafness and some heart and liver conditions. These are caused by genetic faults in mitochondrial DNA (which, unlike nuclear DNA, is inherited only from our mothers). Mitochondrial donation techniques, such as maternal spindle transfer (“MST”) and pro-nuclear transfer (“PNT”), have been developed for use in IVF in order to allow mothers to avoid passing on genetically inherited mitochondrial diseases to children who otherwise carry their parents’ DNA. These techniques are the source of considerable controversy in the field of bioethics, with the children born as a result of these techniques dubbed “three-parent children”.

In common with many other countries worldwide, the UK generally prohibits genetic modifications to the “germ line”, which governs the inheritability of genetic defects. In particular, section 3A of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (“the Act”), as amended in 2008, prohibits the implantation of any embryo in which the mitochondrial or nuclear DNA has been altered (which would be the case with PNT), or which is derived from an egg in which the mitochondrial or nuclear DNA has been altered (which would be the case with MST).

However, a carve-out was introduced in 2008 in section 3ZA, allowing the UK government to introduce regulations permitting the implantation of an egg or embryo which has had applied to it “in prescribed circumstances a prescribed process designed to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease.” The Act requires Parliamentary approval for any such regulations.

The UK government has now made use of this carve-out, by way of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015 (“the Regulations”), which received Parliamentary approval by a large majority in both Houses in February 2015.

The Regulations

Under Regulation 5, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (“HFEA”), an independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research, is authorised in future to issue a specific licence to carry out this treatment where is has determined that:

there is a particular risk that any egg extracted from the ovaries of a woman named in the determination may have mitochondrial abnormalities caused by mitochondrial DNA; and
there is a significant risk that a person with those abnormalities will have or develop serious mitochondrial disease.
The Regulations also set out a similar process and circumstances applying to embryos.


The UK is the first country in the world to permit such techniques to be carried out in the course of IVF treatment.

It should be noted that although the EU Tissues and Cells Directives have been incorporated into UK law, they do not cover the issue of mitochondrial donation and it appears that EU member states are free to pass their own rules.

Opponents of mitochondrial donation techniques argued that the Regulations are incompatible with EU law, in particular Article 9(6) of the EU Clinical Trials Directive (2001/20/EC), which prohibits gene therapy trials resulting in “modifications to the subject’s germ line genetic identity.” Supporters of the Regulations say that there is no conflict as the subject’s nuclear DNA remains unchanged, and the techniques do not amount in any event to a “clinical trial”. So far there has been no formal legal challenge to the validity of the Regulations.


New surrogacy laws in India cause alarm for conservatives

Mothers of babies born by surrogate will be allowed maternity leave in India, leaving conservatives worried about same-sex and single parenting

Mothers whose children were born by surrogacy in India will be entitled to pre- and post-natal maternity leave, following a high court ruling in Delhi on Friday.
The judgement concerned a petition filed by employee of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan in Delhi, who was fighting to receive maternity leave after becoming the mother of a child born by surrogacy.

Opponents of the petition attempted to stop the law from passing, using the argument that changing maternity leave laws may open the possibility of surrogacy to gay couples – and single parents – who are looking to conceive.

With no central or state government ruling on surrogacy and maternity benefits, this judgement fills a gap in the law, allowing the commissioning mother, rather than the surrogate who carried the baby, to be recognized as the legal mother of the child.

On delivering the ruling, Justice Rajiv Shakdher said: ‘There appears to be an inertia in recognizing that motherhood can be attained, even via surrogacy.’

He added: ‘A commissioning mother needs to bond with the child and at times take over the role of a breast-feeding mother, immediately after the delivery of the child.’

‘In sum, the commissioning mother would become the principal care-giver upon the birth of the child.

Undoubtedly, the fact that the surrogate mother carried the pregnancy to full term, involved physiological changes to her body, which were not experienced by the commissioning mother but, from this, could one possibly conclude that her emotional involvement was any less, if not more, than the surrogate mother?’

Commercial surrogacy in India is legal, although regulations introduced in January 2013 stopped foreign same-sex couples from using Indian surrogate mothers to carry their children, after restrictions were tightened.

Only men and women who have been married for two years are granted visas for the purpose of surrogacy.

There are also biological restrictions on who can and cannot be a donor or surrogate.

The Law Commission of India issued the following observations when surrogacy was legalized: ‘One of the intended parents should be a donor as well, because the bond of love and affection with a child primarily emanates from biological relationship.

‘Also, the chances of various kinds of child-abuse, which have been noticed in cases of adoptions, will be reduced.

‘In case the intended parent is single, he or she should be a donor to be able to have a surrogate child. Otherwise, adoption is the way to have a child which is resorted to if biological (natural) parents and adoptive parents are different.’


Lorenzo Lamas’ Wife Gave Birth To Daughter’s Baby! Shawna Craig Agreed To Be Surrogate Mother

Lorenzo Lamas, who is known for his role as Lance Cumson, in "Falcon Crest" recently became a grandfather and stepfather at the same time.

His wife Shawna Craig gave birth to the baby of his daughter on July 4. It may sound a bit confusing at first, but this modern family just did what they have to do to help each other.

Shayne Lamas and her hubby Nik Richie already have a daughter, but they welcomed their second child last week through her 28-year-old stepmother.

According to Closer Weekly (via Latino Post), Lorenzo Lamas' wife gave birth via surrogacy after midnight on July 5. The 29-year-old TV personality shared a photo of her cuddling her 3-year-old daughter Press Dahl and her baby boy. "Queen Princess Prince one love.- sdlr," she wrote on Instagram.

The website also reported that Shayne and Nik's first son weighed six pounds and four ounces.

"The new bundle of joy arrived via natural water birth and everyone is healthy and happy," an insider said. In the March issue of Closer Weekly, Lorenzo's daughter revealed how grateful she was for her dad's new wife.

"Shawna's not just my stepmother. She's like a soul sister," Shayne Lamas said. "She's an angel that blessed my whole family, including my father." The twelfth season winner of "The Bachelor" also explained why she had to get a surrogate mother for their son.

"Somebody else carrying your baby is weird. But I lost my son, and now Shawna is carrying my son," Shayne said. "I have just been given the biggest blessing in the whole world and I will always be grateful."

Lorenzo Lamas is really proud of his wife Shawna Craig for carrying and giving birth to Shayne and Nik's child. He even shared a photo of her on Twitter on July 16 and wrote: "Thank you all for the well wishes. It was truly a family occasion. My wife is a rockstar!" The 57-year-old actor also made fun of what he'll be called at home. "They call me papa Lolo," he wrote on Twitter.


Surrogate mothers: part of the family?

When somebody else gives birth for you, how much is she a part of the family? By Linda Geddes.

You might think that being mother to two girls and a little boy – not to mention three stepchildren – was achievement enough. But Kirsty Broom, then 29, wanted something else to feel proud of.

With six children to care for, and a husband away at sea, a career seemed out of the question. But then one day she happened across a TV show about an infertile couple’s struggle to have children; they eventually realised their dream with the help of another woman’s uterus.

“Listening to them, it melted my heart a little bit,” Kirsty says. “I thought: what a lovely thing to do for somebody… If I do this then I could look [back] and think at least I’ve done something with my life.”

After giving it some more thought and discussing it with her husband, Kirsty registered with an agency called COTS, which introduces would-be surrogates to potential parents. Although she originally planned to help another woman have a baby, when she came across an application from two gay men – Chris and Harry – something clicked for her.

“I thought: this is never going to happen for them in a million years, because they haven’t got the right biology… [But] they’ve got just as much right to be parents as anyone else.”

Although surrogacy is legal in the UK, it remains somewhat controversial. Surrogate mothers aren’t allowed to receive payment for their services, in case some turn to it out of financial desperation. There have also been concerns that surrogates will either be so detached from the baby that they won’t look after themselves properly, or become so attached that they will be traumatised by having to give the baby up – or won’t give it up at all, as has happened in a handful of high-profile cases.

But for some couples, such as women who have suffered repeated miscarriages or were born without a uterus, or indeed gay men, it’s worth the risk. Surrogacy may be their last or only shot at having a family of their own. And the number of babies registered in the UK as having been born through surrogacy increased 255 per cent between 2007 and 2014.

Like many couples seeking a surrogate to carry their child, Chris and Harry wanted to find someone that they could strike up a lasting relationship with – even after the child was born. “We didn’t want to just see her as the womb,” Harry says. “We thought that it would be nice for the children to know the woman who gave them this gift of life.”

They’re not alone. One study that followed 33 surrogate families found that even when the child was ten, 73 per cent of mothers continued to have a harmonious relationship with their child’s surrogate, and many of the children knew about the nature of their relationship with this woman.

A good relationship was also important to Kirsty, but when she finally did meet Harry and Chris, it seemed to be a perfect match: “They fitted into our family like hand into a glove,” she says.

Kirsty agreed to become what’s known as a host-surrogate: she would provide a home for the developing baby, but not her own egg – this was provided by another woman.

Soon Kirsty found herself pregnant with not just one but two baby boys. Although the pregnancy was exciting, she says it was different from her previous pregnancies. “Even though they were inside me for all that time, it was just like I was babysitting for someone,” she says.

The babies were delivered by caesarean section, and due to complications with the anaesthetic, Kirsty was unconscious for the actual birth. But when she did wake up, “They were all sitting there holding the babies with these big smiles on their faces,” she says. “It was really the most wonderful thing to wake up to.”

Although you might assume that it would be hard to hand over the baby you’d been carrying for nine months, one study of 34 British surrogates found that those reporting emotional difficulties were in the minority. Just 11 of them said they had been upset in the weeks after the birth, and one had felt depressed. A year on, only two women continued to experience some upset.

When the time came for Kirsty to pass the twins over, she says she had no regrets whatsoever. “It is just the most amazing feeling looking at them and thinking: ‘Wow, I made that possible’,” she says.

Today, Kirsty continues to see Chris, Harry and the two boys every two or three months. “When I see them I sometimes forget that they were actually inside me,” she says. “I just feel like Auntie Kirsty. It’s the same way I feel for my niece, or how I see my friends’ kids.”


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Parity poser in leave ruling

New Delhi, July 19: A court verdict entitling a "commissioning mother" to maternity leave after having a child through surrogacy has turned the spotlight on the lack of rights for the surrogate mothers themselves.

Friday's Delhi High Court judgment has prompted women's activists to renew their demand for quick passage of a five-year-old bill that seeks to protect surrogate mothers from being underpaid or cheated, or from risking their health and lives.

Currently, government rules in India do not allow maternity leave to the mothers of children born through surrogacy. But a single-judge bench said on Friday that denying maternity leave to a commissioning mother amounts to "turning a blind eye to the advancement that science has made".

Its ruling came on a petition from a central government employee who had sought maternity leave after having twins with the help of a surrogate mother.

"The commissioning mother continues to remain the legal mother of the child, both during and after the pregnancy," the court said.

"It follows... that the commissioning mother's entitlement to maternity leave cannot be denied only on the ground that she did not bear the child."

The court left it to a "competent authority" to fix the period of the maternity leave for commissioning mothers.

In this case, though, the petitioner was allowed the standard maternity leave of 180 days while her appeal was pending. The Centre and state governments have been giving maternity leave to adoptive mothers, too, since 2007.

But no relief has been forthcoming for surrogate mothers. If the commissioning mother needs to look after her newborn, activists say, so does the surrogate mother need to rest and recuperate.

If most surrogate mothers are unemployed or day labourers, they add, that's all the more reason the law should protect their interests. Activists say that surrogate mothers are usually paid a pittance, often less than what's promised in the contract.

India has been allowing commercial (paid) surrogacy since 2002 but it remains unregulated. A UN-backed study had two years ago estimated surrogacy to be a $400-million (Rs 2,540 crore) business annually in India; activists say it could be worth twice that.

But there is no minimum rate for the surrogate mothers, and most of their private contracts with the commissioning couples or individuals are not legally binding.

"The few contracts I've seen consist of a four-line paragraph on a 100-rupee stamp paper stating the woman would be given X amount of money with no rights over the child," said Manasi Mishra, head of the research division of Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based women's rights think thank.

"Sometimes the commissioning woman even refuses to take the baby if it doesn't match the couple's expectations (about its health or gender)."


Friday, July 17, 2015

SI will be closed tomorrow (18th July 15)

SurrogacyIndia will remain closed for tomorrow. For any emergency we are always a call or mail away. Don't hesitate do call or drop an email.

Shayne Lamas Welcomes Second Child Via Surrogacy

Shayne Lamas and her husband Nik Richie received the most precious gift from her stepmother Shawna Craig who served as their surrogate and delivered their second child earlier this month, according to Us Weekly.

Lamas and Richie welcomed a baby boy named Lyon Lamas-Richie. The proud father made the birth announcement on July 4 via Instagram.

"Shayne and I are happy to announce the birth of our son Lyon Lamas-Richie," he wrote.

The former "Bachelor" winner gave birth to the couple's three-year-old daughter, Press Dahl, in November 2011. Following a miscarriage in February 2014, Craig offered to carry her next child.

Craig married Lamas' father, actor Lorenzo Lamas, in April 2011.

Before marrying Richie, Shayne was engaged to "Bachelor" Matt Grant after he chose her in the season 12 finale. They separated in July 2008.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

IVF bill stalls in Senate committee

The Senate Health Committee has voted to reject a bill recently passed by the Sejm, or lower house of parliament, on IVF.

While the upper house, or Senate, has yet to vote on the legislation either in its original or amended form, the committee’s decision is likely to slow down the process of getting the bill through the legislature before the president signs off on it.

With incumbent Civil Platform’s (PO) Bronisław Komorowski - who supports the bill in full - leaving office on 6 August the ruling party wants to get the bill passed through the upper house as soon as possible.

The main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), has said it will overturn IVF legislation if it wins the election in the autumn. PiS’s Andrzej Duda won the presidential election in May and said he would not sign the bill into law.

The Sejm voted on 25 June to make married and unwed couples eligible for IVF if other treatments give no results within 12 months.

It voted 261 for, 176 against, with six abstentions. PiS voted against, saying IVF breaks the constitutional right to life. It also warned it may take the bill to a special court that rules on the constitutionality of new laws. The Catholic Church also opposes the bill.

Two PO senators didn’t make it to the committee vote and one, Helena Hatka, abstained.

Hatka told journalists she had abstained because she and several PO colleagues planned to introduce a raft of changes to the legislation during the Senate discussion this month.

“I do not propose a revolution, just making order where we need order, so that the bill would be in line with the law and take into account the subjectivity of the child,” Hatka said.

The amendments would change the definition of an embryo, and limit application of IVF fertilisation methods only to married couples, while restricting the number to a maximum of three attempts.

Deputy Health Minister Igor Radziewicz Winnicki told journalists that these proposed changes had not been consulted with the government.

The deputy leader of PO senators Łukasz Abgarowicz said PO would support the bill in its full original form.

The senate will debate the bill starting 9 July.

A poll in May found that less than 50 percent of younger Poles aged 18-24 support in-vitro fertilisation. The survey, undertaken by SW Research for the Newsweek Polska weekly, revealed that only 46.4 percent of Poles in the age bracket are for the fertilisation treatment.


Ireland: mother of surrogate baby loses maternity benefit case

The mother of a child born through surrogacy has lost her challenge against a decision to reject her application for paid maternity leave at the Irish High Court.

The woman, who is the child's legal and genetic parent, had used a surrogate in the USA after treatment for cancer left her unable to become pregnant. She was granted maternity leave by her employer when the baby was born but, because it did not offer paid leave, she applied to the state for maternity benefit.

The Department for Social Protection (DSP) rejected her application, however, saying that the woman was not entitled to claim maternity benefits as she had not herself been pregnant.

Supported by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the woman claimed that the decision amounted to unlawful discrimination under the country's Equal Status Acts, but her case was rejected by an employment tribunal and then by a circuit court, before being heard by the High Court.

Ruling against the woman, Ms Justice O'Malley in the High Court said that although it was 'easy to understand' why the woman felt that she had been discriminated against, the Social Welfare Acts exclude maternity payments to women who do not bear the child, report the Irish Times and RTE News.

The judge said it was not open to the court to find discrimination under one Act contrary to provisions under another Act, both passed by the Irish Parliament, the Oireachtas. Nor did the court consider it appropriate to address the issue of the woman not qualifying as a 'mother' under the relevant statutory provision, pending the introduction of surrogacy legislation. However, reports of the decision state that the judge was 'not persuaded' by the DSP's arguments that it could not set up a non-statutory scheme to provide for women who use surrogates.

The IHREC has since recommended that Ireland's equality legislation should be amended to ensure protection for all mothers, reports The Journal.

'On foot of this judgment, the Commission recommends that the Minister for Justice and Equality amend the Equal Status Acts to ensure that State benefits schemes do not result in discrimination, and that individuals are not left without redress,' said Chief Commissioner Emily Logan.

The European Court of Justice has previously ruled that women using surrogates are not entitled to paid maternity leave under EU law although the UK has since legislated to extend adoption leave and pay to intended parents.


Monday, July 13, 2015

IVF success rates improve with discovery of chromosome abnormalities

Researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University and other institutions have discovered that chromosomal abnormalities occurring in human embryos created for in vitro fertilization can be predicted within the first 30 hours of first-stage cellular development.

As the authors explain in the latest edition of the journal Nature Communications, this discovery could improve the overall success rate of IVF procedures, which has long had just a 30 to 35 percent global success rate. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of embryos created for IVF have some type of chromosomal abnormality, which often leads to a miscarriage.

“Many couples are choosing to have children later in life,” said co-author Dr. Shawn Chavez, an assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine, “and this trend is only going to continue.”

“A failed IVF attempt takes an emotional toll on a woman who is anticipating a pregnancy as well as a financial toll on families, with a single IVF treatment costing thousands and thousands of dollars per cycle,” he explained. “Our findings also bring hope to couples who are struggling to start a family and wish to avoid the selection and transfer of embryos with unknown or poor potential for implantation.”

Technique allows for earlier detection of abnormalities

Dr. Chavez and colleagues from Stanford University, University of Valencia and IGENOMIX found that by looking at the duration of the first mitotic phase in the cell cycle, they were able to identify chromosomally normal versus abnormal embryos up to approximately the 8-cell stage.

They also found that, by looking at a single cell level, they could correlate the chromosomal composition of an embryo to a subset of a dozen genes activated before the first cell division. These genes likely originate from egg or sperm, and can be used to predict whether or not an embryo is chromosomally normal or abnormal during the earliest stage of development.

Because of this discovery, doctors and embryologists will be able to quickly identify which embryos are the healthiest for implantation, while also reducing the time that they need to spend cultured in the laboratory before being transferred. Typically, an embryo needs to be implanted within five days of creation, which can be problematic, as chromosomal abnormalities are often not identified until the fifth or sixth day, they noted.

“With assisted reproduction at an all-time high, we want to help more families achieve successful pregnancies,” Chavez said. “IVF has helped countless women all over the world, and we now have the technology and research to improve a couple's chances of having a biological child of their own. This discovery can potentially increase those chances.”


Senate passes IVF bill

A hotly debated bill that regulates state funding for IVF passed by a whisker in Poland's upper house of parliament on Friday.

The bill was ultimately passed without any amendments, with 46 senators backing the bill, 43 against and 4 abstentions.

The prospective law, which still has to be signed by outgoing President Bronisław Komorowski, has proved highly emotive in Poland.

The Roman Catholic Church and chief opposition party Law and Justice have vehemently criticised the legislation.

On Wednesday, senators debated the bill for 11 hours, with calls for amendments put forward by representatives of several parties.

However, a narrow majority managed to pass the bill, which was originally put forward by Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz's Civic Platform party.

The bill regulates state funding for infertile couples, both married and otherwise, once all other methods of treatment have been exhausted, taking in a 12-month time period.

Although the bill was only passed in parliament last month, a pilot IVF programme was introduced in July 2013. This was done via a loophole in the law by which IVF was classified as an ordinary medical procedure such as a tonsillectomy. Over 2000 babies have been born as a result of the programme so far.


Mom, 3 surrogates come together for baby shower

DENVER - Sarah Levine and Eric Landot's very long path to parenthood took them overseas and involved a very large team that became a very tight-knit, extended family.

Levine is a Denver native who moved to Paris for work and fell in love.

When she and her husband wanted to start a family, she was 39 years old and faced a lot of trouble trying to conceive.

"We tried everything," Levine said. "I had a miscarriage. I had an ectopic pregnancy. I was trying everything and it wasn't working."

Levin and Landot flew to Lone Tree for a consult with Dr. William Schoolcraft, the founder of the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.

During the standard medical testing at CCRM, they discovered Levine had endometrial cancer.

Levine had a hysterectomy. Her uterus was taken but her ovaries remained intact.

When she was free of cancer, Levine and Landot flew back to the United States for another appointment at CCRM.

This is not uncommon. Dr. Schoolcraft refers to this as "medical tourism."

"It's usually after having tried in-vitro fertilization locally in their hometown a few times and feeling like 'this is my last try,'" Schoolcraft said. "They'll travel. Even though it's a burden, a woman may see this as her last chance at successfully having a child of her own genetics."

Quite often women facing cancer will freeze their eggs before starting chemotherapy or radiation in order to protect them. That was not necessary for Levine because she did not need extensive cancer treatments following the hysterectomy.

"She had the capacity to make eggs and her husband to make sperm to create their own biological child but she had no way to carry it so that's where the gestational carrier really made sense for her," Dr. Schoolcraft said.

In France, where the couple lived, surrogacy has been illegal since 1994. That's why they went with a surrogate, also referred to as a gestational carrier, here in Colorado.

The couple's first son Oscar arrived in 2011 with the help of a gestational carrier, Aimee Melton. She's a friend of Levine's sister.

"Sarah is just the best," Melton said. "When it seemed that all the avenues to fertility were closed to her, she wrote her own script."

Melton said that she had always been interested at the idea of surrogacy but waited until her second child was one year old before she met up with Levine and Landot.

"I went into surrogacy cautiously because I didn't know how it would feel," Melton said. "I am happy to say it was an amazing experience that I have never regretted. I love getting to watch Oscar grow and Sarah's family expand."

Levine's sister Jessica Breese offered to carry the family's second child. Breese is a Denver midwife who assists in deliveries. In 2013, she gave birth to Vivianne.

And now, their third child has arrived with the help of a Thornton woman, Jessica Troy. Troy is a mother of two children and a doula who has coached other mothers during pregnancies and births.

When Kennan was born on July 3, Melton – their first surrogate -- served as the midwife.

"Getting to deliver Kennan was truly the icing on the cake," Melton said.

This extended family came together Sunday at Melton's home for a baby shower, celebrating 9-day-old Kennan. The only one missing was dad, Eric, who is back in France working as an attorney.

The party was also joyous because of a decision that came down from the French Supreme Court on the day Kennan was born.

Since 1994, children born via surrogacy were not acknowledged as citizens by the French government.

However, on July 3, the French Supreme Court ruled that those children must be granted citizenship and that they cannot be penalized for the decisions of their parents.

"Surrogacy has brought all of this incredible love to my family," Levine said. "It's because these women have been so willing to give of themselves to build this amazing family."

CCRM assists with about 100 pregnancies involving gestational carriers every year. Colorado is one of the states where surrogacy is permitted. The legality varies from state to state.

What makes this family stand out to Dr. Schoolcraft is how everyone involved is very intertwined.

"Sarah keeps coming up with these amazing volunteers to help her carry these children," Schoolcraft said.

Levine says she and her husband paid surrogate fees comparable to the rest of the industry. Research of various sites that assist with surrogacy estimate costs for the gestational carrier to be between $30,000 to $50,000.

Levine says the bonds she has made with her "womb sisters" is priceless. They agree.

"It's like our whole families get along," Kennan's surrogate Jessica Troy said. "It is perfect. It's been the amazing part of the whole thing."

The Levine-Landot family is spending the entire summer in Colorado. They plan to fly back to Paris at the end of August after Kennan finishes his initial rounds of vaccinations.

"When I'm with my children, it's like every day is Thanksgiving," Levine said. "I recognize how incredibly blessed I am to have these three children and have then in the way I've been able to grow sisters at the same time."


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Medical Visas for Surrogacy

High Commission of India Canberra

The High Commission of India in Canberra and its Consulates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have been receiving applications for Medical Visa from Australian passport holders for commissioning surrogacy in India. In view of the abuse of this provision in several cases, the Government of India has reviewed the position with effect from July 15, 2015. The position is as follows:

2. Neither the High Commission nor the Consulates in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth will issue any new medical visas for surrogacy unless the Australian Government / the Australian High Commission in New Delhi start issuing a modified letter that is in accordance with requirements of India's Bureau of Immigration and confirms:

(a) Surrogacy is recognised and legal under Federal Law and also the laws of the relevant State in which the applicant resides.
(b) The new born child will receive passport / travel documents from the Australian Government to enable travel to Australia.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Parenting comes of age, but miles to go

KOLKATA: Next month, a 40-something gentleman will travel to Ahmedabad from Kolkata to begin the process of having a surrogate child. But what if the gender was reversed for the person keen on opting for surrogacy? Would the law allow her to use her name in the birth certificate without disclosing the father's identity?

These are the questions thrown up by the Supreme Court's landmark judgment allowing single women or unwed mothers the freedom of not disclosing the father's name.

Though current rules do not allow any single man or woman from abroad to apply for surrogacy in India, there are no such limitations for Indian singles. Hence, the ruling will not have any direct impact on the number of single women keen on surrogacy.

Says Dr Naina Patel, who is often referred as the country's go-to fertility expert specializing in surrogacy, "In 2012, the ministry of external affairs had issued a guideline that stated that only heterosexual couples who have been married for two years can go for surrogacy. There were no such restrictions for singles in India."

According to Patel, the process of surrogacy involves placing the egg with sperm in the embryo in the womb. Laws state that the birth certificate is supposed to be issued in the name of the single female who is opting for surrogacy. In case of a single male, the birth certificate is issued in his name.

The Gujarat-based doctor has had Indian single fathers approaching her for surrogacy. "Most are in the age group between 35 and 42. Post-divorce, they want to go ahead with surrogacy. I've done at least three such cases before 2005. Single females have also come to me. But none of them have gone ahead with it," she says.

What is it that prompts a single woman to consider surrogacy? Says Dr Gautam Khastgir, "Single woman who want to opt for kids usually go for IVF. They want to experience the process of pregnancy. One out of 1000 women, who have problems with their uterus, are likely to opt for surrogacy. But I haven't come across such an instance."

Does the law prevent a single mother from opting for surrogacy even if she is biologically capable of being a mother? Khastgir says, "The law doesn't prevent anything."

The cost of surrogacy in Kolkata varies from anywhere between Rs 6 lakh and 10 lakh. Though single women haven't warmed up to this yet, the process has found many takers among single men in the city. "In the past three months, I have got eight such cases. While some were divorced, others had suffered from a broken relationship. Some are closet homosexuals. One of these single men had come to my clinic with his mother. I was so happy to see that he has his parental sanction too," Khastgir adds.

Speaking to TOI, this 58-year-old grandmom-to-be says she is counting her days when her son becomes a dad. "My son is 32. He doesn't want to get married since he has apprehensions about marriages. We didn't want to force marriage on him. When he suggested surrogacy, we took a year to come to terms with his decision," she says refusing to disclose her identity.

She is aware that once the baby is home, she will have to double up as the grandmom and the mother. "Dr Khastgir has assured us that we have age on our side to take the pressure of raising a child. We aren't scared of how society will react," she adds.


Mother loses maternity benefit action over surrogacy

Woman claimed State’s refusal to pay benefit amounted to unlawful discrimination

A woman whose child was born as a result of a surrogacy arrangement has lost her High Court action alleging the State’s refusal to pay her maternity benefit amounts to unlawful discrimination, in breach of the Equal Status Act.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley found the Equal Status Act cannot be used to “fill the gap” caused by the continuing absence of legislation to deal with surrogate births.

However, the judge added, she was “not persuaded” by the Department of Social Protection’s insistence it could not set up a non-statutory scheme to make provision for women in the position of this applicant.

The case arose after the woman became seriously ill with cancer when pregnant and had an emergency hysterectomy which left her unable to carry a pregnancy.

She and her husband entered an arrangement with a surrogate who was implanted with their genetic material, fertilised via IVF treatment. After the surrogate gave birth to their daughter in a US state where surrogacy arrangements are lawful, the couple were registered on the child’s birth certificate there as her legal and biological parents.

Not eligible
The woman’s employer agreed she could avail of maternity leave but, because the employer does not pay maternity leave allowance, she applied to the Department of Social Protection for the State allowance, but was refused on grounds she was not eligible.

The woman, supported by the Equality Authority, complained under the Equal Status Act to the Equality Tribunal and, when both it and later the Circuit Court rejected her complaint, she initiated High Court proceedings.

Dismissing the woman’s case against the Department of Social Protection, Ms Justice O’Malley said it was “easy to understand” why the woman feels she has been treated badly, but it was not open either to the court, or Equality Tribunal, to rely on one Act of the Oireachtas - the Equal Status Act - to find there is discrimination contrary to that Act embodied in another Act, the Social Welfare Acts.

While, on the face of it, the woman has “certainly been discriminated against” because she did not bear her child, the difficulty was the payment from which the woman complained she was excluded was a payment created by statute.

A claim to be legally entitled to compensation necessarily involves a claim one has been subjected to a legal wrong but, in this case, the wrong could only be established on the basis one statute can be held to be legally deficient by reference to another statute, the Equal Status Act, she said.

The woman could not maintain a claim of unlawful discrimination without effectively saying the Social Welfare Acts discriminates unlawfully, she said. Because the Equal Status Act and the Social Welfare Acts are Acts of the Oireachtas, and both embody policy choices made by the Oireachtas, the court could not rule one was unlawful based on the policy of the other, she said.

Social welfare code
The only legitimate basis for such a finding would arise had there been an assessment of the constitutionality of the provisions of the social welfare code but, in this case, no challenge was made to the validity of the relevant social welfare provisions, she said.

Earlier, the judge said the department provides a “service” to the public within the meaning of the Equal Status Act in providing statutory benefits and allowances and non-statutory payment schemes.

The statutory provision at issue related solely to mothers, whether natural or adoptive, and, under Irish law, the applicant cannot claim the status of “mother”, she said.

While this was no doubt “a source of great distress” to the woman, it was not for the courts, pending the introduction of legislation on surrogacy, to resolve the complex questions that need to be addressed.

The woman could not claim she was being discriminated against compared with the two categories of mothers recognised by Irish law - mothers who have given birth and mothers who have adopted.

Claims rejected
The judge rejected claims of gender discrimination on grounds no man could qualify for the allowances at issue.

While additional claims of discrimination on grounds of disability (due to being unable to carry a child) and family status were more complex, and the court would be prepared to agree with much of the woman’s claims in that regard, she would not give a definite view because the determinative matter was the payment at issue was a payment created by statute.

The judge added she was “not persuaded” by the department’s insistence the social welfare Acts prohibit it setting up a non-statutory scheme to make provision for women in the position of this applicant.

The department frequently uses such schemes as a flexible alternative, or supplement, to primary legislation, the judge noted.


No law to regulate booming industry

NEW DELHI: The surrogacy industry in India is tipped to be 2.3 billion dollars annually with nearly 20,000 such clinics operating across the country. However, there is no law to regulate them.

The Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, which seeks to regulate surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization (IVF), has been pending for the last five years. Experts say only the 'non-binding' guidelines from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) regulate the running of
fertility clinics.

In the report published in international journal Bioethical Inquiry, researchers state that debates around the ethics of surrogacy are preceded by those relating to organ donation and transplantation.

"Reproductive medicine, like organ transplantation, has been debated in the context of neo-liberal capitalistic medical enterprise and complicity in the commodification of body partswith market demands

. However, unlike organ donation, which is one-time process, reproductive medicine involves the use of eggs and sperm which are regenerative," they saidd, highlighting the urgency of a law to regulate the practice.

Researchers argue that because women are capable of multiple pregnancies, this allows repeated surrogacy, thereby posing newer ethical challenges.

Dr Abha Mazumdar, head of the IVF centre at Sir Ganga Ram hospital, said most unethical practices in commercial surrogacy involves foreigners. "An agent mediating in a property deal gets 10-20% commission. But in surrogacy, agents who bring surrogates get more than 100% commission," she said. The IVF expert said foreigner couples should not be allowed to opt for commercial surrogacy in India.

The UK and some states in Australia permit only altruistic surrogacy, and surrogacy is not legalized in Scandinavian countries and other countries such as Germany and Spain. Most childless couples from these countries come to India.

Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research, said, there is need to rein in fertility clinics fleecing patients

"Absence of a law has led to mushrooming of centres exploiting vulnerable couples and pushing poor women into surrogacy."


Government to ensure full protection of surrogate child

The deposit required could be in the range of $50,000 and above, looking at the child's future needs till he/she becomes an adult, sources said.

The government has included tough amendments in the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill for foreigners seeking surrogacy in India. The cabinet note that is in the final stages includes foreigner seeking surrogacy to have declaration from the respective country that the surrogate child will be given citizenship of the country. Moreover, they would also be required to deposit a substantial sum in dollars to ensure the well-being of the child if are able to take him/her back and child is kept in India.

The deposit required could be in the range of $50,000 and above, looking at the child's future needs till he/she becomes an adult, sources said. It would also be mandatory for the foreign parents to come to India on a valid medical visa and not on tourist or any other visa. Commissioning parents who flouts visa regulations will be penalised heavily.

"These changes were necessary as surrogacy has become a multi-billion dollar industry in India but at the same time the rights of the child and the surrogate mother are not being protected. Several examples have come before us where children have been left in the lurch and surrogate mothers have been exploited by commissioning parents who undertake surrogacy with the help of clinics that have come up and surreptitiously doing the business of surrogacy or Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART),"said a senior home ministry official.

There are an estimated 2,00,000 clinics across the country offering artificial insemination, IVF and ART. Thousands of foreigners including NRIs are seeking surrogacy in India for various reasons, including medical and personal, as it is at least ten times cheaper than in the western countries. According to estimates surrogacy industry is doing Rs. 25-billion business annually and has been described as gold pot by the Law Commission of India.