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15 Apr 2014

Infertile women and couples are willing to take significant risks and to enter into offshore surrogacy arrangements in their efforts to have children, according to fertility experts.

In their desperation to have children, women experiencing infertility are five times more likely that their male partners to contemplate potentially serious complications such as multiple pregnancies, premature and low birth-weight births, and a higher incidence of conditions such as cerebral palsy, an Asia Pacific conference bringing together fertility specialists from across the region has been told.

Monash IVF Research Director Associate Professor Luk Rombauts told the Fifth Congress of the Asia Pacific Initiative on Preproduction said a study of 320 infertile couples and a similar number of fertile couples showed the women in infertile couples were far more willing to take on extra risks of complications than their partners.

Associate Professor Rombauts said that couples who had been trying to achieve pregnancy for a long period often asked for multiple embryo transfer.

“Multiple embryo transfer only marginally improves the chance of achieving a pregnancy, but it significantly increases the potential for complications, including possible lifetime health problems for resulting twins, compared with singeltons,” he said.

Associate Professor Rombauts said a comparison of risk perceptions among infertile couples showed women were far more willing than their male partners to undertake extra risk to achieve pregnancy.

“This is significant when you consider that women predominantly drive decisions making in assisted reproduction, even though the burden of infertility is equally shared between male and female partners,” he said.

The Congress also heard that a number of infertile Australian couples have used commercial surrogacy services in other countries to have a child.

Dr Nayana Patel, Medical Director of India-based commercial surrogacy operator Akanksha Infertility, said his clinic had delivered more than 760 babies through surrogacy to couples from 38 countries, including Australia.

Official figures show that in 2011-12 there were just 23 surrogacy births recorded in Australia, while in the same year more than 300 children were born in India to Australian citizens, many of them the result of commercial surrogacy arrangements.

Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia.

Dr Patel said couples paid about $24,000, of which the surrogate mother received $9000.

The surrogate mothers are required to remain in a guarded residential facility for the duration of their pregnancy, but Dr Patel said they gained significant benefits from the transaction.

“These surrogates are compensated for their services, as a homeowner would pay a maid,” she said. “It can change the lives of surrogates, because the money they earn may allow them to buy a home for their family, start a small business or educate their own children.”

Demand for such services is unlikely to abate. The World Health Organisation estimates there were about 48.5 million infertile couples worldwide in 2010.

Adrian Rollins



Published: 15 Apr 2014