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Friday, February 19, 2016

IVF Accepted in India, but Egg Freezing Yet to Gain Approval

But while young Indians feel that freezing of human egg is a smart move for career-oriented women, social stigma continues to be attached to the new-age fertilisation process, say medical experts. Egg freezing is still not very popular in India, said Shobha Gupta, medical director and IVF Specialist at Mother's Lap IVF Centre.

‘Egg freezing is still not very popular in India, people still open their eyes wide if they hear such things, especially in joint and conservative families.’

"People in India still open their eyes wide if they hear such things, especially in joint and conservative families. On the other hand, IVF has been accepted widely in India, but egg freezing is yet to gain approval or social acceptability in India," Gupta told IANS.

Another expert, Anubha Singh, gynecologist and IVF Expert at Shantah IVF Centre, said that "egg freezing is not a normal procedure like IVF or surrogacy, but if you are an individual and you don't need any family member's approval, you can definitely go for this". The procedure, however, has caught the people's attention here in the past two to three years.

Singh said it was in 2014 when technology conglomerates Apple and Facebook announced that they will pay for the egg freezing process of their women employees. "They took the decision to attract more female employees and maintain their retention rates so that they may have prolonged careers," said Singh.

Internationally, egg freezing is a route that Hollywood celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashain have taken. And in India, Diana has set an example. Is the method more popular among celebrities than commoners? "Egg freezing is a costly affair and is mostly taken up by high-profile people," Gupta said. The costs of preserving eggs is very high.

In India, freezing embryos costs Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000 per month, and the frozen embryo transfer cycle costs Rs.100,000 to Rs.200,000 per cycle. Embryo transfer is the main part of the IVF process - and it usually takes 10 to 15 days to be injected in a woman's womb. Thus, egg freezing is mostly popular among Page 3 celebrities or among people with higher spending powers, Gupta added.

"Many couples who work for IT firms, BPOs and in management backgrounds are busy with their careers and delay the baby-making process, thereby, giving them a reason to opt for freezing their sperms or eggs. Besides a prosperous career, the uncertainty of marriage and fear of infertility are two other major factors contributing to this trend (of increasing queries on egg-freezing)," she said.

But before taking a decision, be aware that egg freezing isn't a sureshot guarantee of pregnancy. "First of all, the success rate of egg freezing is not 100 percent as chances of viable pregnancies are only 30 to 35 percent. You just can't freeze your eggs once, sit back and relax. Even if you freeze your eggs at an early age, you have to get your IVF cycle done before you turn 45-years-old.

"So, limitations are always there," Aanchal Aggarwal, IVF specialist at the BL Kapur Memorial Hospital, told IANS. In Britain, 18,000 eggs were frozen till 2012. Of these, only 580 embryos were formed, eventually generating only 20 live births, according to an earlier report.

"So, you can clearly notice that the difference between the ratio of eggs which is 18,000 and live births which is only 20," said Singh, adding: "It is best if you freeze embryos (combination of eggs and sperm) rather than eggs. The cost of freezing embryos is the same as the cost of freezing eggs, but freezing embryos is more result-oriented in comparison."


Thursday, February 4, 2016


India was the second country in the world after the UK to produce a "test-tube baby" - the Indian girl (Harsha) was born just 67 days after Louise Brown in 1978. India is fast becoming a favoured destination for international medical tourism. With over 3000 fertility clinics, it has become the Mecca for all treatment options for infertility.

Awareness of fertility interventions like IVF is also quite high among the Indian populace itself so Indians from rural or semi-urban areas come to the metros to seek treatment which is not available in their locality.

Another factor making India a popular medical tourist attraction is that of age. Unlike countries with age cut-off limits, it rarely poses a barrier in India. Earlier this year, twin girls conceived by IVF in India were born in the Midlands to a British Indian couple with a combined age of 131. Their mother, thought to be 59, is one of the oldest women in Britain to give birth.

Ethnicity is no problem either. Those making the trip to India are not just people of Indian descent who want a baby who resembles them. Increasingly, they are white couples that have no problem with the idea of having brown babies.

In the global market of commercial fertility, India remains one of the cheapest places to buy gametes. In America the going rate for an egg from an Ivy League student is around $60,000 (£30,000). An Indian egg never fetches more than 40,000 rupees (£500), and in the country's small towns a woman is paid as little as 5,500 rupees (£70).

The combination of the low cost of infertility treatment in India - nearly one-quarter of the cost in developed nations - and the modern ART available there make India a top choice for infertility treatments. Fertility clinics in countries like United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, France, Spain, and Denmark are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for donor eggs and are turning to India. An average IVF cycle in the US costs $10000 whereas in India it is available for about $ 3000.

The easy availability of egg donors and surrogates in India has also encouraged international patients to consider India as one of the suitable countries to pursue their treatment especially as India is equipped with some of the finest international IVF centres and highly qualified IVF doctors. For instance, the Akanksha clinic in Anand is very well known at home and abroad, giving the small town in Gujarat state the reputation as India's ‘surrogacy capital.’ Nova IVI’s Hyderabad centre has both US and UK trained doctors. Internationally well known also is Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, a favourite among British fertility tourists. More than half his clinic's patients are from abroad. Hundreds who have had no success in their own country, come to the man who says "yes."   He calls his patients "reproductive exiles" from medical establishments that are hostile to their desire to have children.

Malpani also sees no problem with his clinic giving white patients the eggs and embryos of Indian donors, saying, "They've thought about it."

British medical thinking, he says, is not designed with the patient in mind. In Britain for instance,  doctors and patients are encouraged to transfer a maximum of two embryos into the uterus. Any more and the risks of premature birth, smaller babies and children with language and behavourial disorders increases substantially. Malpani transfers up to five embryos. "We have the flexibility to give a woman the best chance," he says. "If they don't get pregnant at all, they are the ones to suffer."
By his own admission, Malpani is a libertarian. He is also a respected fertility expert - his IVF clinic has been named among India's best - with a CV boasting a string of awards and scholarships for his clinical skills.