Monday, December 29, 2008

Economic Turmoil Fuels India's Fertility Business

I recently posted about how patients are canceling their IVF appointments for surrogacy and egg donation in India because of the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, but apparently that has not stopped the booming industry in India. In fact, with many women and men getting laid off from their well paying jobs, more educated women than ever before are becoming surrogates and egg donors.

In fact, one woman in the article was at the pharmacy looking to buy poison to kill herself because of her family's desperate financial situation when she saw an advertisement for egg donors. She applied, was accepted and is now receiving income for helping infertile couples who could not have a genetic child without her help. Another woman's husband was laid off and she knew it would be incredibly difficult for her to find employment, so she applied to become a surrogate and is now hoping to become pregnant for an American woman.

I do believe that India is not taking away the surrogacy business from any agency or attorney in this country. Those couples or individuals who are going to India would not have used a surrogate or an egg donor in the United States because they simply cannot afford it. For them, the United States was never an option.

Surrogacy in Uganda?

Four children have been born via surrogacy in Uganda, where according to my calculations, the cost for surrogacy is about $3,800, including IVF costs and the surrogate’s fee, which is about $1,600. This is well below what it costs for couples in India, which is about $35,000. But, and this is a big “but,” surrogacy in Uganda is completely unregulated and is not socially recognized. The surrogate in the article had to move because her neighbors would not accept or understand the process and she had to move her children during the pregnancy because she didn’t know how to answer their questions about the baby she was carrying. That one is easier than most people think, but since surrogacy is so new in that country, the surrogates do not get the support they would get in other countries, like the United States.

I would caution anyone looking outside their country for surrogacy to do thier research and investigate the doctor, hospital, agency, surrogate, etc. In this case, you cannot do too much research. I would not recommend the country of Uganda, as surrogacy is still more for family and friends who reside in that country.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Egg Donors and the Economy

CNN recently ran a piece on egg donors and the economy, Egg Donors on the Rise, as did the Wall Street Journal, Ova Time: Women Line Up To Donate Eggs — for Money and I want to make it perfectly clear that while there is an increase in women applying to become donors, there is not an increase in Extraordinary Conceptions' donors donating their eggs. In fact, most women who apply to become a donor do NOT ever become one. While both those pieces were accurate, they left out a very important part of becoming a donor and that is the rigorous screening process.

A donor in Extraordinary Conceptions' program first must complete a detailed, lengthy application. Most donors never finish it. After their application is complete, their background is checked. If the young woman passes this step, they next meet with the donor program staff who reviews the process with them (self-injecting hormones for 2 to 5 weeks and a medical procedure) and the restrictions placed on them: no smoking, drinking, recreational drugs, and sex. At this point, women who are not serious about the process drop out of the program.

They next must complete an additional detailed medical questionnaire. Remember, these are young women who are either attending school or working or both. These women are busy so only the women who are serious about the process complete this step.

After the donor is is selected by a recipient, they meet with that person’s IVF physician wherever he or she is located, having their blood drawn for the required FDA screening, undergoing a vaginal ultrasound and meeting with the doctor who explains in detail the procedure and the risks involved. Again, the physician wants to make sure that the young woman understands what is required of her.

The donor undergoes another background check as well as a psychological screening. The psychologist wants to make sure that the donor is not emotionally attached to her eggs and has no history of drug or alcohol abuse in her family and that she is stable and well-adjusted.

Some programs do not require this, but Extraordinary Conceptions' program donors meet with an attorney who reviews the legal contract with them, explaining their rights, responsibilities and duties under the contract. The contract makes very clear that the donor does not and will not have any parental rights to any child conceived as a result of the egg donation procedure.

After all these steps are completed, the donor can now wait to start the egg donation process! She checks her calendar for the day she must state her injectable medication and when her medical appointments will be. During this time, she needs to take multiple injectable medications and attend doctor visits where she will have her blood drawn and have a vaginal ultrasound. And, not all donors will get to the egg retrieval day, since some donors do not respond well to the medication and their cycles must be cancelled.

So, if all goes well, the donor will have her eggs retrieved and receive the majority of her fee. As you can see, this is a lengthy and detailed process. It is not like these women can drive to the clinic, drop off a few “ova” and walk away with a check in hand. It takes commitment, patience, and hard work.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AFA Responds to Vatican’s Dignitas Personae

Ken Mosesian, the executive director of the American Fertility Association and a practicing Catholic and an openly gay man in a committed relationship has commented about the Vatican’s Dignitas Personae, which was released on December 8, 2008, and is the Vatican’s newest “Instruction on Bioethics,” which includes IVF, surrogacy and egg donation.

While the Vatican is against using these technologies and treatments to create a child, Ken cautions that all life should be treated with dignity and that all people should treat the children created using these techniques with dignity and respect. As a mother of twins created with IVF and surrogacy, I applaud his approach and agree with it completely.

I would be horrified to be sitting in church and have a pastor or priest make my children feel “less” because of how they were created. My children are dearly, dearly loved and they know that. But, at Ken’s urging, I will have a discussion with them and continue to have talks with them on how some people could be deeply offended at their creation.

I will also help them understand and instill in them respect for human life and dignity for all. Like Ken, I was raised Catholic and I have been debating whether to return to the Catholic church and my hesitation has been because I disagree with many of their teachings; however, as Ken pointed out, complete agreement is not necessary to be a faithful member of any church.

The Vatican’s newest Instruction on Bioethics, is available on the web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Surrogacy Tourism Down in India

The title of the article says it all: “Baby Dreams Take a Beating.” The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai have dramatically affected the booming surrogacy business in India. All centers in the country have reported significant cancellations or postponements of the IVF procedures for international couples. Many countries have issued travel advisories, including the U.S. Department of State, because “the November 26 Mumbai terrorist attacks in part targeted American citizens and other westerners for the first time and tragically demonstrate that even in five-star luxury hotels, security is not equipped to deter such attacks. U.S. citizens should take this new reality into account and exercise caution when visiting India. ”

We know first-hand how expensive egg donor and surrogacy cycles can be, which is why we developed our www.altruisticangels.com discount program. We are also working hard to develop partnerships with you to make surrogacy and egg donation even more affordable. However, the need to have a family and create a child can be overwhelming and for some of you, surrogacy or egg donation in India is your only option to creating a family. While I cannot guarantee your safety, I do know know of a reputable agency in India who works with the finest centers so please contact me at stephanie@extraconceptions.com for a referral.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Today's Wall Street Journal: Women Line Up To Donate Eggs -- for Money

Extraordinary Conceptions has seen an increase in both Donors and Surrogates applying in the past few months too. It is not surprising, since the economy is not doing well and it is tougher for these women to find work. But, no matter what is going on financially, both Donors and Surrogates still have to qualify and follow strict guidelines, including no smoking, drinking and sex and injecting themselves with medication for weeks -- and in the surrogate's case, months if she gets pregnant. Both Donors and surrogates also go through a medical screening, a psychological examination, background checks and a legal contract review.

As you can see it, it is work, but work that can be so rewarding. The link below will take you to the WSJ article on Women Donating their eggs for money: http://tinyurl.com/6nvyrv

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Women Exposed to Secondhand Smoke Likely to Have Fertility Problems

Women who are exposed to secondhand smoke either as children or as adults are 68 percent more likely to have fertility problems, including miscarriages. I’m astounded by that figure. I know from speaking to embryologists that they can tell from looking at an embryo if the intended mother or egg donor smoked, but I had no idea the impact that secondhand smoke has on a woman’s future fertility.

This could be devastating news to the women who never smoked but had a parent or parents who smoked in the house where they grew up. Those women had no control over their exposure and their fertility may already be compromised. We can only hope that what comes from this study is more research on how to help all women and men who suffer from infertility.

The link to the full article on secondhand smoke and fertility: http://tinyurl.com/5k3bua

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Do with Frozen Embryos?

Thousands of individuals and couples face the dilemma of what to do with the unused frozen embryos after they have completed their family or either decided to stop IVF treatment and build their family using other means. One couple I talked to has three children and 17 frozen embryos on ice. The couple do not want to destroy them or adopt them to another couple and they think they want to donate them to medical research, but two after after speaking with them on this subject, their embryos are on still on ice in the IVF physician's office.

Like the mother in this article, I did not have to face those difficult decisions because I did not have any frozen embryos left. However, I worked with a couple who thought, like the couple in the article, that they would donate their embryos to another couple struggling with their fertility. Fast-forward 2 years and the couple panicked when the IVF center actually found a recipient couple who wanted their embryos. The donor couple was finished having their children (twins) but they couldn't donate what they thought of as their children to another couple they didn't know. They backed out of the program and the recipient couple found another couple that donated their embryos to them.

Frozen Embryo Dilemma http://tinyurl.com/45l4lz

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trista Sutter To Appear At Gala To Benefit Couples Struggling With Infertility

The original "Bachelorette" to appear at a gala benefiting couples struggling with infertility. Infertility is incredibly isolating so I applaud Trista for giving her time to couples and individuals who are struggling with their fertility. The money raised will allow the Embracing Hope Grant to provide $10,000 toward infertility costs to one very lucky recipient.

Information on the Embracing Hope Infertility Grant and the event http://tinyurl.com/4poqyp

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Men Having Babies: Single Hollywood Power Gays

According to www.radaronline.com, the newest Hollywood accessory is the "Gaybie" as more gay single men are having children. While I do not like labeling children, I applaud men who have a strong desire to have a child and are not in a committed relationship. And like the article states, the men are coming to California where surrogacy is legal for gay or straight single men. Unlike Clay Aiken, who had a willing friend help him have his child, most men will need a surrogate and egg donor, which is expensive. But, like the article states, these men have the means -- and the desire to create a family.

Please find the complete article here: http://radaronline.com/features/2008/09/clay_aiken_ricky_martin_surrogate_mothers_babies_gaybies.php

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

59 Year Old Gives Birth To Triplets in France

How old is too old? I am not here to judge, but I do work with IVF physicians who are appalled when a 50-year-old woman wants to become a mother, let alone a 59-year-old woman.

Besides age and egg donation, this article also highlights France's strict laws regarding third-party parenting. It is illegal to provide fertility treatments to a woman past natural reproductive age. What is age is natural? While 59 is probably past "natural" woman in their early 50s have been known to naturally have children.

Complete article is at this link:

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Military Surrogates

An article ran this past Sunday in the San Diego Union Tribune about military wives who are surrogates. Ever since Newsweek's cover story on surrogates, including military surrogates, they have received a lot of attention. I have worked with many military surrogates and they are very committed to the process and are happy to serve and help a couple achieve their dream of having a child.

Full disclosure: I am featured in the article.

The complete article can be found here: www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080629-9999-1n29surro.html

Friday, June 27, 2008

UK Sperm and Egg Donation Cycles Decline

While I can understand a child's need to know where they came from, I am not surprised the latest findings regarding the decline in sperm and egg donation since the government banned antonymous donations in 2005. The rates have declined by nearly 40% for egg donation, despite the government's insurance that the rates would not decline. Most couples are on a two-year waiting list for donors, denying treatment to thousands of couples. It is no surprise that couples look to the United States and other countries when seeking a donor.

The complete article can be found here: www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4215440.ece

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Surrogacy in Australia

While not all states within the USA legalize surrogacy, there are many states that do. Australians are not so fortunate, as most of the country, surrogacy is illegal or the laws legalizing surrogacy are so problematic and recognize the surrogate as the legal mother if there is a dispute between the couple and the surrogate, that most couples look elsewhere.

This couple found a way and her sister carried her baby for her. Surrogacy in the state where they moved to is legal as long as the surrogate is not paid a fee (altruistic). Most of the countries and states where surrogacy is illegal or is restricted to unpaid surrogacy do so because the legislators believe that paying a woman to carry a child is degrading to women and illegal baby selling under current adoption laws.

The complete article is found at this link: www.news.com.au/couriermail/comments/0,23836,23900110-5007191,00.html

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Infertility and Age

An article came out today that infertility rises depending on age, which is true. Most women are under the impression, misguided as it is, that it's only until you reach the age of 35 that you have to worry about conceiving.

That is not true. Many women can have problems concieving at age 30. I know I was 32 when I started to try and get pregnant and it was not easy for me at all. Yes, we all know women who conceive easily at 35 and beyond. I have a childhood friend who got pregnant the first month she went off the pill and she was 40!

But, that is not the norm. The complete article can be found here: Putting off pregnancy until after age 30 causes infertility issues

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Circle Surrogacy to Host Surrogacy Seminar for Swedish Couples

I recently had the pleasure of meeting John Weltman, President of Circle Surrogacy, at the American Fertility Association's Families Matter meeting held in San Fransisco and I found him to be knowledgeable and caring, as well as an entertaining and informative speaker. I think what he is doing will help many couples who cannot have a child through surrogacy in their country due to the restrictive laws.

And I too have found an increase in international couples to both my law practice and agency, Extraordinary Conceptions. I think the weak economy in the U.S. does have something to do with it, but whose to say if that is the only reason why international couples are coming to the U.S. for surrogacy and egg donation now.

Perhaps the recent Newsweek article portraying surrogates in a positive light has something to do with the increase of international couples. It really is hard to say.

The laws in California have not changed in over 20 years and are still extremely favorable to all couples and individuals, whether you are gay or straight, married or single, so I can't say the law is a factor.

You can read the complete press release here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Blogging About Infertility

Recently, the L.A. Times published an article about the voice that people now have when through blogging when they are undergoing infertility treatments. I wish something like that had been available to me when I was going through my treatments because it was incredibly lonely.

Most of my friends had no problem getting pregnant, especially my coworkers! During my second round of IVF I got pregnant only to miscarry at 8 weeks while 6 women in my department were pregnant! They were showing ultrasound pictures and I was having my first D&C. If only I had a blog where I could write about about how devastated I felt at the time.

Click here to read the complete article: Up Close and Personal: Blogging about infertility

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New IVF Treatment Could Double Pregnancy Rates

The article doesn't say what the new treatment is that could double pregnancy rates, but that is probably because the researchers at the University of Adelaide are not disclosing it, but it sounds promising as the group says the treatment could significantly increase implantation rates and decrease pregnancy complications for women undergoing assisted reproductive treatments (ART).

The article even calls the single embryo transfer the "holy grail" and says this treatment could possibly perfect transferring one embryo, which would significantly decrease the risks to both the pregnant woman and the unborn children.

The testing is currently being done on rats, but if true it could hold great promise for couples and individuals who have been unable to achieve a pregnancy with ART.

Click on New Treatment Could Double Pregnancy Rates for the complete article.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Do Military Wives Make Better Surrogates?

Not to be outdone by Newsweek, ABC News has done a piece on surrogacy. Again, this is a balanced and informative look at surrogates and why they agree to carry a child for another couple. I have worked with many surrogates, both military and not, and I cannot say that military wives make better surrogates. They have been some of the best surrogates I have worked with and some of the worst. Like anything, there is the good and the bad.

Like the Center for Surrogate Parenting, I am careful working with military surrogates whose husbands are deployed. While these women are used to managing their children and households single-handedly, every surrogate needs a support system and if the surrogate has none while her husband is deployed, then I recommend not working with her.

I also question military surrogates on their husbands' future orders, as the spouse could get orders to move to a state that does not recognize surrogacy. For the most part, the surrogate and her husband know that they will be getting their orders months in advance, but I worked with a surrogate whose husband recently got orders to move to Japan. Thankfully, we were only in the matching stage and she had not cycled with the couple and was not pregnant. During the interview with this surrogate, she said that her husband is here to stay and he has no plans to get transfer orders. This surrogate appeared genuine so I have to believe she had no idea he was getting his orders.

Because my practice is based in San Diego, which has two military bases, my contract always has a clause requiring the surrogate to remain in their home state, which is usually California, through the delivery. As you can see this is especially critical when working with military surrogates.

Read the full article here: http://www.abcnews.go.com/US/ReproductiveHealth/Story?id=4561403&page=1

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Marissa Jaret Winokur Having a Baby via Surrogate

I know, it seems like Surrogacy has been in the news a lot this past week! What a feel-good story about a woman who overcame cancer and is now having a baby boy. It seems like everything is going well for her and her husband. I wish them both the best on the upcoming birth of their baby boy.

Click here to see the complete story: http://www.celebrity-babies.com/2008/03/marissa-janet-w.html

America's First IVF Twins Turn 25

What an inspiring story to others who are struggling with their fertility and have been given little or no chance of having a child. The Tiltons were told the very same thing in the early 80s, but they never gave up and now their twins, created using in vitro fertilization, are celebrating their 25th birthday. The twins do not feel different or special, just grateful to their parents for never giving up.

Please see the complete article here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23898180?GT1=43001

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Curious Lives of Surrogates

Finally, a balanced article on surrogates and how they really feel about what they are doing. Kudos to Newsweek and the reporters Lorraine Ali and Raina Kelley for their thorough research and detailed article about gestational carriers. For the complete story, click here: http://www.newsweek.com/id/129594/page/1.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Growing Generations in W Magazine

Kudos to Growing Generations, the surrogacy agency founded by Will Halm and Gail Taylor. While most agencies will work with the GLBT community, they were the first. They are a top-notch agency and this article reflects the care they have given to their clients.

Surrogacy Novel Debuts: Relectant Miracle

I have not read the book so I can't comment on the content of Reluctant Miracle, but while I have read a novel about a couple going through infertility treatments (I forget the title, sorry!) I think this may be the first novel with its central theme as surrogacy. Intended Parents and surrogates might want to pick up a copy to read.

I've posted the link in my link sections so you can read a brief synopsis about the novel. You can also find it on amazon.com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Infertility Treatments and Why They Suck

See my links for an article that was written by a woman who went through infertility treatment. Do they suck? Yes, until you either stop or achieve your dream. I cannot say differently. It's not fun poking yourself with needles and going in for your 10th vaginal ultrasound -- this month! But, would I do it all again and then some? Yes, I would.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serial Egg Donors and Their Health

Lately, women who donate their eggs more than six times are receiving a lot of press in the news. I think the attention is good, as it is focusing on the unknown health risks to these women; however, is the health community concerned for their health or is it because these women are "egg donors" and are receiving money for their services? I have stimulated my ovaries 23 times to have a child (I have twins through surrogacy) and no doctor told me that I should be concerned after six cycles. Not my OB/GYN or the IVF physician that I worked with afterwards. I represent many women who work with egg donors to have their families and these women have gone through numerous cycles as well. While I have not asked them if their doctors explained the health risks to them after more than six stimulation cycles, I have a feeling not one did. So, is it the health risk or something else?

The complete article is here: Egg Donation: Is It Worth Big Money?
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