What is surrogacy? Everything you need to know

With Karan Johar just announcing the birth of his twins through surrogacy, it's important to know what surrogacy exactly is.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 6, 2017 2:26:22 pm
karan johar, karan johar surrogacy, karan johar surrogate kids, surrogacy bill, ban on commercial surrogacy, surrogacy, what is surrogacy, medical reasons for surrogacy, sushma swaraj, latest news, surrogacy news, how to choose a surrogate, indian celebrity and surrogacy, tusshar kapoor, shah rukh khan, aamir khan In the past one year, Karan Johar is the second Indian celebrity to opt for single parenthood through surrogacy. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

Joining the increasing ilk of celebrity single parents, Karan Johar reportedly has now become the proud parent of a set of twins born through surrogacy. The twins – a boy and a girl – were apparently born in February, though the exact date is unknown, Johar tweeted out a heart-warming message welcoming his kids into the world and his life early Sunday morning.

“The birth registrations were done on Friday,” BMC executive health officer Dr Padmaja Keskar was quoted in a Times of India report. The twins have been named Yash and Roohi (both taking from the names of Johar’s parents).

Also read: What are the surrogacy in laws in India: Here is everything you need to know

WATCH | Father Karan Johar Introduces Roohi, Yash To The World

The last Indian celebrity to go through the surrogacy route was actor Tusshar Kapoor, who had a son last year in June. Johar’s decision also comes at an opportune time since the draft surrogacy Bill that had been cleared by the Cabinet in August 2016 has not yet been tabled and passed as law, which could have meant that he would not have been allowed to go through with the process.

In case you were wondering what this Bill is, just to brush up on your general knowledge, the Cabinet, on August 24, had cleared the draft surrogacy Bill with the aim of making the process and legality of surrogacy in India more transparent. Thus far, surrogacy – in which another woman carries and gives birth to a child for a couple who want to have a baby but are unable to do so – has been in the grey legal area in India.

According to Union minister for external affairs Sushma Swaraj, the need for the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, came after India emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples and the increased number of incidents reported on unethical practices. The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, which includes stopping foreigners from commissioning surrogacy in India, while making it illegal for single parents, gay couples and those in live-in relationships to opt for surrogacy.

What else is making news

Though, not an extremely common practice among Indians, Bollywood celebrities such as Tusshar Kapoor, Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan, Aamir and Kiran Rao Khan, and Sohail and Seema Sachdeva Khan have all turned to surrogates to expand their families. This is probably the trend Swaraj was referring to when she said “what was started for convenience has become a luxury… Big celebrities who not only have one but two children, a son and a daughter, even then they went ahead with surrogacy” today. This is what we mean when we say that this Bill would have affected Johar’s decision to opt for fatherhood via surrogacy, had the Bill been passed as law.

Though many may cry at the unfairness of the MEA minister’s statement, people do agree that there is a dire need to streamline and clear the ambiguity around surrogacy and IVF rules and laws. With the Bill being a positive step in that direction, it’s also important to understand – from a medical stand-point – what is surrogacy and what should one know before opting for it.

Watch VideoGovt Moves To Ban Commercial Surrogacy: What It Means

What is surrogacy?
The definition is fairly simple – when a couple wants a baby but is unable to have a child because either or both partners are medically unfit to conceive, another woman is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the father. She then carries the child full term and delivers it for the couple. In such a case, the surrogate mother is the biological mother of the child. In instances when the father’s sperm cannot be used, a donor sperm can also be used. This is traditional surrogacy.

There is also gestational surrogacy, wherein eggs from the mother are fertilised with the father’s/donor’s sperm and then the embryo is placed into the uterus of the surrogate, who carries the child to term and delivers it. In this case, the biological mother is still the woman whose eggs are used, while the surrogate is called the birth mother.

Why opt for surrogacy?
Couples opt for surrogacy when traditional means of conceiving a child have failed, this also includes in-vitro fertilisation, or it is dangerous for the couple to get pregnant and give birth. The following medical conditions usually necessitate surrogacy:
> Malformation of or infection in the womb
> Absence or removal of womb by hysterectomy
> Recurring miscarriages
> Repeated failure of IVF
> Other conditions that make impossibly or risky for a woman, such as severe heart disease

ALSO READ: New surrogacy Bill bars married couples with kids, NRIs, gays, live-ins, foreigners

What should be kept in mind while selecting a surrogate?
According to Dr Kshitij Murdia, medical director, Indira IVF, Udaipur, it is important to make sure the surrogate mother is healthy and ideally between 21 and 40 years old.
> Other than general fitness levels such as blood pressure, sugar levels, thyroid, etc., one should check for the the mental health of the surrogate.
> It is also advisable that the surrogate should have already given birth to one healthy baby before.
Swaraj, in a press conference after the Bill was passed, said couples can also take help from close relatives. Many might remember the character of Phoebe in the popular US TV series F.R.I.E.N.D.S. who was the surrogate mother for her brother Frank Jr’s triplets.

The concerns with surrogacy and IVF in India
> The list of objectives of the Bill is the prohibition of foreigners from commissioning surrogacy in the country, which has time and again led to exploitation of women, especially those in rural and tribal areas. The Bill, once in effect, will help authorities to take action on the various surrogacy rackets that are currently in operation across the country.
> There have also been many instances of childless couples of very advanced age opting for surrogacy and IVF. Though the Bill so far just prohibits single parents, homosexual couples and live-in relationship couples to opt for altruistic surrogacy, many hope the guidelines will also aid in dissuading ‘senior couples’ from opting for this as well.

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