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 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 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:

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: