Special delivery: embryos by courier

Childless working couples and singles who cannot afford to take extended leave are increasingly shipping embryos to IVF clinics in India to be implanted in the wombs of surrogates.

A 40-year-old US man who wants to become a single parent recently sent an embryo to IVF Melbourne in Gujarat, after hiring an American egg donor. Dr Manish Banker, from the clinic, said: "He has already finalised a surrogate from options sent to him on e-mail and will come only to sign the legal papers. We will transfer the embryo in the surrogate and if pregnancy occurs, he will come back to take the child.”

The embryos are frozen and stored in medical straws, then sealed, packed in liquid nitrogen and kept at -196 degrees. The courier’s trip is about three to four days long, and costs between 50,000 and 60,000 rupees depending on the country from which it is being sent. Doctors have said the process is far cheaper than the conventional process – as it eliminates the travel costs for two people as well as accommodation expenses for the 7-10 days it would usually take for the process to be completed. It also eliminates the need for prospective parents to take leave from work to travel to India.

Dr Banker has four embryo-shipping cases set for surrogate mothers – including an embryo from an Australian couple. He says: “This practice of getting IVF treatment in their own countries and then sending embryos is set to grow as it saves both time and money."

Dr Naina Patel, from Anand’s Akanksha Infertility Clinic (a burgeoning surrogacy hub close to IVF Melbourne), has noted a sharp rise in enquiries about this new infertility treatment. "We receive a growing number of embryos shipped from all around the globe from couple who can't come here for initial stages of treatment. While we prefer to pick up eggs and do embryology if the couples come here, many couples have genuine problems of getting extended leaves (sic). If the embryos are shipped, they have to come here only for a day or two to complete the legalities," she says. ~The Times of India, Aug 29; Slate, Aug 23

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