HYDERABAD: In recent times, Aamir Khan started the discussion when he and wife Kiran Rao had a baby through a surrogate, followed by Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri Khan. And adding to that list was actress Lakshmi Manchu who on Sunday, welcomed a baby daughter borne from a surrogate.
Perhaps the first Tollywood celebrity and southern actress to opt for the procedure, Lakshmi’s public announcement of the same is an encouraging sign for couples contemplating the procedure.
For those unaware of it, surrogacy is not the same as adoption though the aftermath of it is marginally similar.
While in adoption the child is biologically unrelated to the parents, Indian laws governing surrogacy mandate that the child has to be biologically related to one parent. Normally surrogacy is opted for when the mother is unable to conceive or carry the child; the father’s sperm is inseminated in a surrogate womb that bears the child for the couple.
Though the concept may be garnering attention now, Dr Shilpi Reddy, a gynaecologist in the city says that surrogacy goes as far back as the puranas.
“It dates back to our mythology, including our Indian stories where there have been instances of bearing children through surrogates,” explains the senior gynaecologist at The Birth Place, Banjara Hills.
Having dealt with surrogacy cases for the past three years, Dr Reddy acknowledges that the procedure is very appealing for couples who are not keen on adoption (given the lack of a biological connect).
“It is a boon for childless couples who cannot bear children for many reasons – uterine anomaly, no uterus, multiple miscarriages, and more common problems like diabetes, hypertension and so on. And these couples have an opportunity to parent children who are biologically their own,” she says.
With a well laid set of guidelines by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the process of surrogacy is properly organised and so, there isn’t much to be worried about either in terms of procedure.
“The rules are well laid out. One can choose this route only when they are absolutely sure, and at least one parent should be biologically related to the child. If one is not a resident of India, they have to follow a different set of rules,” she emphasises stating that it is a safe option for couples who do not have a choice. The only downside is that it is quite an expensive alternative.
“It is an expensive process and in my experience, most couples have backed out because it was heavy on their pockets. In Hyderabad, it could cost in the range of `10-15 lakhs,” she informs, adding that this includes selection of the donor, embryological costs while transferring, taking care of the surrogate and before, pre and post natal care.
As much as the initial cost is an important aspect , parents need to also factor in how this affects a child’s upbringing.
A conservative and sometimes mean society can too much for a surrogate child. Dr Diana Monteiro says caution and honesty is the best way to deal with this.
“Being a surrogate child is a difficult situation, just like being an adopted child is and these situations should be dealt with as honestly as possible. Parents should talk to the child openly and tell them the reason behind choosing the route. That they really wanted the child and hence chose this method should be made very clear,” says the psychologist and director of the Hyderabad Academy of Psychology.
Once child is in the know, teaching them how to deal with the problem is next most important step.
“Arm them with the knowledge and tell them all that they need to know,” she emphasises.
Ask her about how much of an influence Manchu’s public announcement is going to be, she responds in the positive. “Awareness only helps and doesn’t hurt and this will only make people more aware. I’m glad she announced it publicly because that takes guts,” she appreciates.
What you need to know
* A surrogate mother has no legal rights over the child as per ICMR 2005 guidelines. She is counselled legally and psychologically and the rights of all parties are mentioned in the ‘Gestational Surrogacy Agreement’.
* The surrogate should not be bilogically connected to the child
* The intended parents are mandated to take care of the child after its birth, even in the event of change of heart.
* The child can ask for information about his/her genetic mother when they attain 18 years of age. However, the guidelines have excluded personal details, address and contact from the information.