What is surrogacy?

Karan Johar has become a father of twins through surrogacy. Here's all the information you need to have while opting for surrogacy.

With various advances in technology and ease of access in-vitro fertilisation or IVF has proved to be a boon to many couples who have not been blessed with a child. A closely linked technology with IVF is surrogacy. While many do not know what surrogacy actually is, taboo, superstitions, lack of knowledge and awareness are also few of the many reasons that prevent couples from accessing this easily available technology. However, there are many questions that come to mind when one thinks of using such a technology for an important life decision. While you may many questions about this technology one of your major concerns would be about its safety. You may like to read how safe these fertility treatments are.

To shed some light and clear all your doubts and questions about surrogacy, here's what our expert Dr Aniruddha Malpani, renowned IVF specialist, has to say about surrogacy and what it means.

What is surrogacy? How is it done?

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The word surrogate means substitute or replacement and a surrogate mother is one who lends her uterus to another couple so that they can have a baby. In the West, where fewer and fewer babies are offered for adoption, surrogacy is gaining popularity, despite controversial legal and ethical hassles. India is fast becoming the surrogacy capital of the world* because IVF surrogacy in India is much less expensive than in other parts of the world.

Why is surrogacy so popular? What kind of people need surrogacy? Why do women choose to become a surrogate?

Surrogacy is popular for those who can t conceive children in the natural way . The most common reason people opt for a surrogate is when the woman is missing a uterus. It can absent from birth (Mullerian agenesis) or may have been surgically removed (hysterectomy for life-saving reasons, such as excessive bleeding during a caesarean). Also women who ve suffered multiple miscarriages, or who have failed repeated IVF attempts for unexplained reasons. Surrogacy is also an effective treatment option for gay couples and single men. You may like to read about top 10 traits of a good IVF patient.

Women who agree to become surrogates may do so for compassionate reasons. This includes a sister, mother or close friend of the couple. They may also do so for financial remuneration - this could be a woman, with or without children, known or unknown to the couple, who rents her womb for a fee.

What are the different kinds of surrogacy?

There are two main kinds of surrogacy:

  1. Where the surrogate mother provides the egg: In this case, the surrogate is inseminated artificially with the husband's sperm. Here, the infertile woman has no genetic relationship to the baby. This was called traditional surrogacy, and is illegal in most parts of the world.
  2. Where the infertile woman provides the egg: The egg is then either transferred to the surrogate mother by GIFT (gamete intra-fallopian transfer) along with her husband's sperm, or the egg is fertilised in the woman s uterus by IVF with her husband's sperm. After fertilisation occurs, the embryo is transferred into the surrogate's uterus, which then acts as an incubator for the next nine months. If she does not have any eggs, it is possible to perform donor egg surrogacy, using an egg donor.

Certain guidelines have been laid down to try to minimize the misuse of the surrogacy technique. This requires a surrogate motherhood contract to be drawn up, which should specify that the child will become the legitimate adopted child of the infertile couple the intended parents. The contract needs to be signed by the couple, the surrogate and her husband. The legal waters of surrogate motherhood will continue to be murky, and most Indian clinics follow the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines. All this information can be quite daunting and choosing the right clinic for this technology can get tough. Here a few tips to help you choose the right IVF clinic.

It is vital that the surrogate and the couple consider the future of the child. The receiving mother should ideally be present at the birth and care for the baby in hospital. She can even be prepared for breastfeeding (induced lactation) by hormone treatment.

What are the complex issues raised by surrogacy?

Surrogacy has spawned a host of legal and emotional issues to which there are no right answers like:

  • What will you do if the surrogate insists on keeping the child?
  • How much should you pay the surrogate?
  • If she gets ill as a result of the pregnancy who will pay the medical costs?
  • Is it possible to put the receiving mother's name as mother on the birth certificate?
  • Will you tell the child about the surrogacy?
  • Will surrogates undertake pregnancy for profit?
  • What happens if the child is handicapped and is unwanted by the couple and the surrogate mother?
  • What happens if the surrogate dies during child birth?

Many people are worried about the possibility of the surrogacy technique being misused. They feel it may allow the exploitation of poor women who may be used as mother machines to bear babies - much like the wet nurses of yesteryear.

Surrogacy has received quite a lot of bad press recently - especially when the contract goes sour and there is a dispute over the baby between the commissioning parents and the surrogate mother. The Courts then need to have the Wisdom of Solomon to assign the rights of the genetic mother, the birth mother, and the social or rearing mother. Nevertheless, we must remember that surrogacy does offer one method of achieving parenthood to a few couples who could never have a baby by any other means. The road to surrogacy is a rocky one and requires much thought. It is perhaps the most complex and difficult way to achieve parenthood.

Why is Bollywood fraternity opting for surrogacy? Is it an easier method to have a child?

No, surrogacy is an expensive and complex treatment option, which is best reserved for women without a uterus. When a couple opts for surrogacy they do so only after they have exhausted all their options. Calling it an easier method to have a child, would not be right, because these couples go through a lot before they get to this point. You may like to read about Indian celebrities who opted for IVF.

How does one find a surrogate mother?

For any couple looking to opt for this form of treatment, they will have to approach an agency. They must be careful to choose a certified agency that will provide them with all the information they require. There are a number of 'fake' agencies out there, and for such an expensive treatment, choosing the right one could mean the difference between finding the joy of parenthood and heartbreak. If you are interested in surrogacy, you can visit for more information.


Image source: Getty Images

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