Parliamentary panel rejects banning of Commercial Surrogacy

The long wait on India’s surrogacy Bill has finally ended and the Parliamentary committee tasked to review the Bill has voted against it.

Expressing concern over the possibility of illegal business in surrogacy if banned by the government, members of the parliamentary committee have rejected the blanket ban on commercial surrogacy in India, as suggested in the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016.

The proposed Bill called for a complete ban on surrogacy arrangements in which any kind of compensation is offered to the surrogate, and suggested that only the altruistic form of surrogacy be allowed.

However, the parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing these suggestions, has said that banning of commercial surrogacy could lead to the growth of a black market in surrogacy services.

“The whole surrogacy service could go underground and would lead to increased exploitation with no mechanism for protection of any of the parties involved in the surrogacy arrangement,” the committee said in a report.

“There is also the likelihood of surrogacy being driven underground involving illicit inter-country movement of women to be surrogate mothers into foreign nations or safe surrogacy havens globally for monetary returns.

“This may subject the surrogate to worst sufferings. Hence, a prohibition of commercial sector is likely to hurt the very people it seeks to protect,” they said.


Surrogacy cannot be altruistic

The 2016 bill requires the complete prohibition of surrogacy arrangements that involve monetary compensation and only allow for altruistic form of surrogacy.

However, the parliamentary committee spoke out against it, saying that expecting a woman to endure the hardships and post-partum period for another couple for only altruistic reasons is “tantamount to a form of exploitation.”

If you only let close relatives be surrogates, it is likely to be out of “compulsion and coercion” and not because of altruism.

“Pure altruistic drive for any substantial and meaningful contribution of someone else’s life is unreasonable to expect in today’s economic and social environment,” said the committee. “Endorsing altruistic surrogacy will enforce emotional and social pressure on close female relatives without any compensation for immense emotional and bodily labour of gestation involved in surrogacy as well as loss of livelihood.”


NRIs to be allowed commercial surrogacy in India

The committee agreed to not allowing surrogacy for foreign nationals in India but saw “no point” in restricting NRIs to commission for surrogacy services

“Given our sentiments and sensibility, the social status of a woman in our society is judged by her reproductive life and there is a lot of pressure on her for child-bearing.”

Noting the significance of reproductive ability in our society, the members said that any woman is under a lot of pressure to have a child, and surrogacy should be an option for them if they are unable to have one for medical reasons.

The committee members also suggested in favour of keeping surrogacy open for live-in partners because the current time demands that.

To not acknowledge live-in partners’ surrogacy needs would mean that the bill is not in consonance with the “present day modern social milieu that we live in and is too narrow in its understanding,” they said.


Need for surrogacy bill

The surrogacy bill, introduced in November 2016 in the Indian Parliament, was aimed at protecting the rights of surrogate mothers.

PadmaShri Dr. Kamini Rao—a pioneer of ART in India, discusses significant points from the medical perspective and insisted that the rights of intending parents should also be protected.

Noting some cases where the surrogate was exploiting the commissioning parents, Dr. Rao called for a greater regulation in the surrogacy sector of India and opines that the surrogacy Bill has to be a part of the ART Bill, which has been worked upon for almost 20 years.


Have low-carb diet for IVF success : Research

Cutting down the amount of carbohydrates in your diet could raise your chances of conceiving, British fertility experts said at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Geneva.

Dr Gillian Lockwood of the Midland Fertility Clinic in Tamworth, Staffordshire, says she encourages the couples who are trying to conceive to eat more lean protein and leafy vegetables.

The Telegraph reports that doctors are now advising lower amount of refined carbohydrates— such as those in bread and pasta—to women who are planning to conceive. They also encourage patients to select muesli, porridge, eggs and yogurts over processed breakfast cereals.

“I tell my patients that if they are going to have toast for breakfast, then that is their carbs for the day,” Dr. Lockwood said.

She added, “They cannot then have a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. If they want a pasta supper that has to be their carb, or if they want a jacket potato for lunch, then that is it.”

If you trying to conceive have only one carbohydrate-rich meal per day: Experts


Diet for IVF success

Dr Lockwood highlighted research that found women who consumed lesser amounts of carbs had four times the success rates in IVF as compared to those who were on standard diets.

A study by the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine (DIRM) in Newark observed 120 women undergoing IVF and divided them into two groups – high carb diet and low carb diet.

58 percent of those in the “low-carb” group conceived successfully with IVF and had a baby. While in the other group (women with high-carb diet), only 11 percent had a baby.

Researchers concluded if you are trying to conceive, you should try to have less than 40 per cent carbohydrates and up to 35 per cent protein in your every day diet.


How do carbs affect fertility?

Female egg quality and capability of conception are both affected by carbs and evidence suggests that you can almost double your chances of conceiving if you follow the low-carb diet that doctors are now encouraging.

Excess of stodgy food may hinder or even stop your ovulation, according to the recent report.

Refined carbohydrates are simple molecules that quickly break down, causing a quick rise in blood sugar.

Over time the sugar processing mechanism of our bodies slows down, which possibly damages the body cells including reproductive gametes (sperm and eggs).

In a different study, back in 2013, a team led by the Delaware Institute for Reproductive Medicine reported similar findings.

They studied 120 women that were undergoing fertility treatment.

The ones who had 40 per cent carbs in their diet were found to have a pregnancy rate of 63.2 per cent – almost double the 33.8 per cent rate of the group with higher carb intake.

The lining of the womb also becomes less receptive to an embryo in women who consume higher doses of carbohydrates.

“We know that diet has a major impact on the chance of conception and on egg quality and increasingly it seems that carbohydrates play a particular role,” says Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society.

“When trying to conceive, men and women should have individual checks on their diet, and on levels of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.”


Do you have any thoughts on the best diet for conception? Do you think it really works?

Commercial surrogacy in Canada to become legal soon

Fertility specialists are urging the government to overturn a 13-year-old ban that makes commercial surrogacy in Canada illegal. It is also illegal in Canada to pay for donor eggs and sperms, which the doctors say, largely limits the options for infertile couples.

The Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) suggests that with the people becoming more familiar with infertility problems and more accepting of assisted reproduction technologies, it is only appropriate the government allows for commercialisation of key human elements under careful regulation.

It is important to note here that surrogacy in Canada was allowed but the surrogate could not accept any fee from the commissioning parents.

The 2004 law allows surrogates and donors of egg and sperm to be reimbursed for some expenses but makes it a crime to pay them fees. 

Canadians have been travelling for surrogacy in Punjab, India for the obvious cost benefit ans easy process but they might want to stay back in their home country, if the Government allows it.


Why are people still travelling for surrogacy in Canada?

Intending parents still travel to avail surrogacy in Canada because ambiguous regulations allow people to find loopholes and Canadians continue to deliver surrogate babies for foreigners.

Besides, the pregnancy and delivery costs of the surrogate are covered by Canada’s universal health care system, as it is for any other pregnant lady in the country.

Surrogacy agencies even market this price advantage in Canada, noting that in comparison foreign intending parents pay for health insurance for the surrogate mother in the US. 

What are the murky laws of Canada surrogacy?

Lawyers refer to Canada as the “wild west” for surrogacy because the laws are so unclear that people can bend them to their advantage.

According to Arthur Leader, a partner at the Ottawa Fertility Centre, who also often advises governments on assisted human reproduction policies, “anything goes.”

He calls on federal officials to finally draft out some firm rules for Canadian surrogacy because the current system “doesn’t protect anybody and doesn’t act in the best interest of the child or the commissioning couple or the surrogate,” he says in a report published by the CBC.

In a 2010 ruling the Supreme Court of Canada struck down parts of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, rendering a lot of issues unclear. Compensation for egg donors, sperm donors, and surrogates, was legally banned but the court allows them to be reimbursed for certain expenses—without clearly defining what those expenses are. 

So the compensation is open to interpretation and it is easy to breach the rule, which fertility brokers and others often do.

 “There is an altruistic element to it, but I’ve honestly in my career never met someone who is willing to do that for free for a stranger,” said Dr. Jeff Roberts, president of the CFAS. “But there may be a sizeable number willing to do it if at least they’re compensated for wages and some of their time.”

Despite foreign families taking advantage of Canada’s murky laws, most Canadians, who wouldn’t take a risk on the law, have to resort to fertility tourism and import the gametes from the US.


Govt. agrees to regulate Surrogacy in Canada

Finally, the government plans to develop regulations for testing and screening egg donors and rules for tracing donations.

Noting that the AHR act was intended “to protect and promote the health, safety, dignity and rights of individuals who use, or are born of assisted human reproduction,” the department announced its decision to consider the proposed changes.

These changes respond to evolving technology, said Health Minister Jane Philpott, adding that many Canadians have benefited from the scientific developments in ART.

“Our laws need to adapt so that they can continue to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” she said. “By adopting new regulations, we will continue to ensure that the risks posed are minimized and families are supported.”

Comments on the proposed changes will be heard until Nov. 29 and the people concerned can also offer suggestions when the regulations are previewed in the Canada Gazette, later.


Male infertility can be resolved with this protein : Study

Researchers at Qatar University have identified a key protein in human sperm as a vital component of the fertilization process. Problems with a protein known as phospholipase C zeta (PLC-zeta) is thought to be the causative factor for male infertility, and fixing this could be a real solution for men facing infertility.

During lab experiments, the investigators were able to bring about fertilization of eggs by injecting them with larger amounts of PLC-zeta protein from men who were otherwise infertile.

Infertile men were found to have either reduced amounts or some mutation of the said protein, rendering it ineffective and consequently failing the process of fertilization, even in cases where rigorous ivf technique was followed.

“Recent clinical studies have highlighted the crucial importance of PLC-zeta in human fertilization, reporting that sperm from infertile patients, who exhibited failed fertilization even after the most powerful in vitro fertilization techniques, contained either reduced amounts or mutated forms of this protein,” said Dr. Michail Nomikos of Qatar University in Doha, who was the lead author of the Biochemical Journal paper, as reported in the Science Daily.

In the process of natural or in-vitro fertilization—just before an embryo begins to form, the human egg is known to undergo a significant increase in calcium levels known as “calcium oscillations,” which are actually activated by a nudge from the sperm.

This elevation in calcium levels is considered vital not only for fertilization but also for early development of the embryo.

The sperm-specific PLC-zeta protein was discovered back in 2002 by Professor Tony Lai of Cardiff University, UK and his colleagues. Professor Lai is also a senior author in this new study and the research performed by him over this past decade has revealed that PLC-zeta is actually the key activator of calcium oscillations in the egg during fertilization.

Dr. Nomikos and his colleagues, in the current study, found on injecting mouse eggs with lower levels of the abnormal PLC-zeta protein (as found in infertile men), failed to bring about any calcium oscillations and consequently no fertilization resulted. However, on increasing amount of the injected protein, it was observed that calcium oscillations started and subsequently the fertilization process began.

According to the researchers, these finding could prove very helpful in treatment of this type of infertility in the coming future.

“The identification and characterization of another male infertility-linked PLC-zeta mutation necessitates that we begin to consider use of recombinant PLC-zeta protein in a clinical setting, with the aim being to rescue such cases of egg activation failure,” said Professor Lai.

“We believe that our research can eventually give hope to many infertile couples in the near future; our goal is to help them have a family,” he added.

This research was originally published by the Biochemical Society.


Baby born to woman who had ovary frozen at nine years

A 24-year-old woman has given birth to a baby after her fertility was restored with the ovarian tissue frozen when she was just nine.

This is the first instance of live birth from frozen tissue and a breakthrough for patients who want to undergo IVF after chemotherapy.

Moaza Al Matrooshi, now 24, said the arrival of her baby son was “like a miracle.”

Infertility from cancer treatments

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy are known to leave the patient infertile but after this breakthrough, young cancer survivors should have hope.

Al Matrooshi, from Dubai, was born with beta thalassaemia—a blood disorder that is lethal if left untreated.

She needed chemotherapy before undergoing bone marrow transplant, which was carried out at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

The chemo would have left her ovaries damaged, so before starting treatment she had her right ovary removed and frozen, at an operation in Leeds.

She was nine years at the time.

Specialists were able to preserve the ovary, which remained frozen until last year when it was sent to Denmark, where the transplant took place.

Eggs from the ovary were used to perform IVF and Al Matrooshi, whose son was delivered at the privately-run Portland Hospital in December 2016, said, “It is a perfect feeling.”

“We’ve been waiting so long for this result – a healthy baby,” she said. “I always believed that I would be a mum and that I would have a baby. I didn’t stop hoping and now I have this baby.”

Preservation of fertility

When she was a young child, the fertility preservation procedure was carried out by Professor Helen Picton, Head of the Division of Reproduction and Early Development at the University of Leeds.

Professor Picton said, “It is the first time that the success of the procedure has been shown in a pre-pubertal girl, and I’m delighted that this young woman has had her baby.”

The other ovary was left in her body but the harm caused by chemotherapy drugs rendered it useless and Al Matrooshi started undergoing menopause in her early twenties.

After being married, in 2015 she worked with her gynaecologist to start transplantation of some of her stored ovarian tissue.

Following the transplant her eggs started maturing, her hormone levels began returning to normal, she began ovulating, and her fertility was restored.

Fertility restoration in women & men

Professor Picton told the BBC that Moaza was “one of the first patients we helped back in 2001, before any baby had been born from ovary tissue preservation.”

“Worldwide more than 60 babies have been born from women who had their fertility restored, but Moaza is the first case from pre-pubertal freezing and the first from a patient who had treatment for beta thalassaemia,” he said.

Professor Picton is now carrying out further research to see if immature eggs can be fertilized in the lab and used for IVF, in case transplantation of ovarian tissue is not an option.

“These are young cancer patients, for example, who might be at high risk of reintroducing cancer cells to the body through the transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue,” he said.

“We’ll also be using the technologies for the in vitro growth and culture of ovarian tissue as a means of testing the ovarian toxicity of contemporary cancer drugs, so that will help us predict the likely risk to young patients of losing their fertility in the future.”

Recently, in a separate study, scientists at the University of Texas found that a drug could be used to restore spermatogenesis in men who have become infertile due to cancer treatments.

If you have any questions or comments regarding cancer treatments and infertility, please share below.