Simran and Ankur*, a Bangalore-based couple, want to have a baby but don’t have the time for it. The two IT professionals have demanding careers and are often travelling on work. Ankur is on a three-month assignment in the United States and as soon as he returns Simran will fly out of the country.
Last Wednesday, 36-year-old Simran got inseminated with her 38-year-old husband’s frozen sperm.
“Their biological clock is ticking and they want to have a child but at the same time don’t want to compromise their careers. Most times they live in different cities making it difficult to have a physical relationship, and nearly impossible when the wife is ovulating,” said Dr Rashmi Yogish, clinical director, Nova IVI fertility, Bangalore.
Apple and Facebook recently offered to cover expenses for egg banking for their employees, in an acknowledgement of the need for women to have both children and high-powered careers. But egg and sperm banking was an alien concept to Indians just a few years ago.
Now, an increasing number of couples are opting for it as they struggle to manage their careers and have children at the same time. Doctors say the number of takers has increased with couples working in different shifts and living in different cities. Yogish says about 30% of couples she sees are in same situation as Simran and Ankur.
“At least 30% of the men whose sperm has been frozen at our clinics are either living in a different city or country as their partner. This makes physical conception impossible,” said Dr Duru Shah, Gynaecworld, a fertility clinic in Mumbai.
Dr Shah recalled a case where a woman conceived while her husband was on an assignment in the UK for three years. “The couple is career-oriented and don’t want to leave their jobs. Also, modern science gives them the option to have a baby together though they are physically apart at the time of conception.”
Though sperm banking has risen by about 20% in fertility clinics, egg banking is still not a popular choice.
Dr Nandita Palshektar who runs multiple fertility clinics in India, said less than 10 women freeze their eggs annually.
“Many of these women have not found their partner or are too busy working and want to postpone child-bearing. Comparatively many men are freezing their sperm to help conception while they are not around,” said Dr Palshetkar.
Doctors said that while such couples may not necessarily have fertility issues, lack of common time is forcing them to use artificial reproduction techniques for conceiving. “We have many couples working in BPOs where they have different shifts and may only meet on weekends.
Freezing sperm for such couples is the best way to aid conception in the man’s absence,” said Dr Shivani Gour, director, ISIS Hospital, New Delhi, that stores frozen sperm of many military personnel and marine engineers.
Dr Gour added that the option of egg freezing has become commercially available only in the last two years. “Earlier it was an experimental procedure and even today we have limited data on Indian women. Also egg freezing is costly and an invasive procedure compared to sperm freezing, and hence not as popular in India.”
(*names of couples changed to protect their identity)