Till as recently as a couple of years ago, mothers-in-law asked uncomfortable questions, intrusive relatives cast aspersions and couples hung their heads in shame for not having kids in the first few years of marriage. Not any more.
Easy availability of information online has played a big role in changing old mindsets, especially in urban India. Most young people are coming around to exploring newer, more successful ways to procreate.
Even as most experts stand by the view that the best and the most fun way to make a baby is inside a bedroom, people are more aware of “other ways” to procreate. “Having a baby has always been a wonderful thing. And, thank God, people are now not just discovering but also making use of and talking about the ‘other ways’ rather comfortably,” says Mumbai-based infertility specialist, Dr Aniruddha Malpani.
Experts assert that there is a definite growth in the number of people coming in for different treatments. “We may not have exact figures but the increase in the number of fertility clinics in urban India speaks volumes of the changing trends,” says Dr Malpani.
From just about five fertility clinics a few years ago, Mumbai now has nearly 1,500. Smaller towns boast of a similarly proportional increase. “In the last four years, I have seen a steady rise of nearly 30 per cent every year as far as patients are concerned,” he adds.
In the know of things
IVF (In vitro fertilisation) specialist Dr Anup Gupta credits technology, awareness and availability of information for changing mindsets. Exposure and exchange of information through more than one medium – social networking sites, online communities, blogging, etc – bring in a higher degree of comfort in talking and understanding personal problems while maintaining anonymity. “With information at your fingertips, couples in urban India are now taking conscious decisions and finding solutions to their personal problems without any pressure,” says Gupta.
Delhi-based architect Anshul Vohra agrees. He learnt about the different ways of having a baby through research on the Net and signing up with an online community on surrogacy and sperm donation. “It was only after the initial research was done and my wife and I felt in control that we went to a specialist. My wife and I decided to have a baby through sperm donation. So only the treatment was left to the specialist. And thankfully we didn’t need to involve anyone we didn’t want to,” says Vohra.
For Vohra, his wife’s opinion was equally paramount. And that, say experts, is another prime reason for this great attitude shift. “Unlike in the past, when women rarely had a say in matters of reproduction, more women are now taking it upon themselves to speak up on issues that have plagued them for eternity,” says Gayatri Dua, a sociologist at Delhi University. “It is one of those things that are very personal to women in general. Earlier, everyone had a say in her life. Now, she is making sure that it is only her. So she decides when to marry, when to have a child and how exactly. The only other person involved is perhaps the husband or partner,” says Dua.
And with women increasingly choosing to marry late, there is a definite growth in reasons that fuel sperm or egg donation and surrogacy. “It is a medically proven fact that the best child-bearing ages for both men and women are in their late 20s and early 30s. With age, the ovulation process starts to slow down. For many couples who get married in their later years, the other ways to make a baby are the best options in case they fail to conceive naturally,” says Dr Malpani.
Looking up to the stars
Like with most celebrity endorsements, this trend too owes some of its popularity to filmstars. Thanks to actor Aamir Khan and wife Kiran Rao celebrating the birth of their son Azaad who was born via surrogacy or director Farah Khan happily trotting around with her IVF-acquired triplets at the age of 40, things are indeed changing.
“It makes a big difference when people you look up to endorse something. It gives you a lot of confidence,” says Meenakshi Raina, a university lecturer. Raina was 38 when she decided to go in for IVF treatments motivated by Khan who had children at 40. “My husband and I figured late that we wanted to have babies,” Raina explains. “I was already 38 and failed attempts at natural conception made me realise that my biological clock had ticked away. After a point, I gave up trying. Then I read about filmmaker Farah Khan being pregnant with triplets. She was 40. I waited with bated breath till she delivered. And then it just clicked. If she could, why couldn’t I?”
Raina decided to go through the IVF cycle and conceived twins on her third attempt. Today they are four years old – happy and healthy. The couple is overjoyed. “Whoever says you can’t have babies late,” she chuckles!
But it isn’t always as easy or comfortable for every couple. There are too many emotional strings attached, says Mumbai-based psychologist Dr Swapnil Mukherjee. “The very fact that a couple can’t conceive naturally is very stressful. Add to it situations such as taking a donor’s sperm or egg or both or depending entirely on a stranger to carry your baby through the nine months (in the case of surrogacy) – it can be an absolute nightmare,” says Mukherjee.
Experts believe in the necessity of counselling for the couple and the family in such situations. “It is only after long counselling sessions and a thorough study of the mental make-up of all concerned that we advise further medical course of action,” says Dr Malpani. Many couples do have apprehensions, especially in case of the involvement of a sperm or egg donor, say psychologists. “We have many cases when in spite of the keenness of one partner, the other is unable to accept the fact that he or she will not be the biological parent. This generates a lot of insecurity in the partner who is keen on the procedure,” adds Malpani.
The emotional turmoil often unnerves many couples. But then, with adoption laws becoming stringent, for most couples in a “stable relationship”, these are good options.
Diary of a surrogate mother
It’s never easy to give up the child you have carried for nine months and given birth to. But I do this for a living – for myself and my two sons. My own two sons. I fell in love with a boy from my village and ran away from my home in Punjab. My family disowned me. But I didn’t care. My husband took up a job as an auto driver in Delhi, we had twin boys and we were happy till a bus accident left my husband paralysed from the waist down.
I tried working as a domestic help for some time but the money wasn’t enough. Then my neighbour introduced me to a lady doctor in a big clinic. The doctor told me that I could get decent money if I could make babies for couples who didn’t have them. I was apprehensive, but she called my husband too and explained that I wouldn’t have to do much. Just take care of the baby as long as it’s in my womb. And they (the doctor, clinic and couple) would look after all my needs during the pregnancy. Only, I would not have any rights over the child. If the ‘parents’ don’t agree, I won’t even get a look at him/her.
I agreed. I had my husband and children to look after. And we needed the money. Things went as promised. All medical bills, all expenses, even my saris and sometimes, gifts for my children came from the couple. Then she was born.
After 12 traumatic hours of labour, she came out. The doctor asked if I wanted to see her. I refused. “What’s the point of seeing her if I’ll never be able to see her again?” I asked. It was my toughest moment.
I had two more children after that. I’ve made a decent sum but don’t know how long can I carry on. I haven’t seen any of the children; I just call for my own sons after every delivery. After all it’s for them that I am doing this.
-Pratibha Mishra (name changed)
Who is a donor?
Sperm donors need to be graduates; between 20-40 years. They are tested for sound health and sperm count.
Egg donors need to be between 20-40 years. They are tested for sound health and the ovarian reserve count.
For surrogacy, it’s essential that a contract be signed, so that the intended parent is assured that the surrogate will hand over the baby to them after his/her birth
Approximate costs incurred?
IUI or intrauterine insemination is less expensive; but has a lower success rate. It costs about Rs 20,000 per cycle.
IVF or In vitro fertilisation costs about Rs 1,00,000 per cycle. Medications are extra. This is a per-treatment-cycle cost , not a per baby cost
Ways to make a baby
1. Artificial insemination of mother with father’s sperm
2. Artificial insemination of mother with donor sperm
3. Artificial insemination with egg and sperm donors, using a surrogate mother
4. In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) using egg and sperm of parents
5. IVF with Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection
6. IVF with frozen embryos
7. IVF with egg donor
8. IVF with sperm donor
9. IVF with egg and sperm donor
10. IVF with surrogate using parents’ egg and sperm
11. IVF with surrogate and egg donor
12. IVF with surrogate and sperm donor
13. IVF with surrogate using her egg, sperm from baby’s father
14. IVF with surrogate using egg and sperm donors
15. Naturally. Make love!
Vicky made a difference!
From showcasing a society that cringed at words like infertile or even adoption for the longest time, the movie Vicky Donor became a trendsetter, talking about issues that were strictly bedroom topics – impotence, infertility and sperm donation.
“It was a big risk to talk about sperm donation and base a film on that. But attitudes are changing. People are far more aware and open now. The fact that the film was so well appreciated speaks volumes of the change in society,” says Shoojit Sircar, director of Vicky Donor. Ayushmann Khurrana, who played Vicky in the film, says, “It made sure that everybody understands that not being able to have a child isn’t a crime and neither is using ‘other ways’ to have one.”
From HT Brunch, July 15
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