Tonight we head off to see Rotunda – The Center for Human Reproduction. We’re a bit skeptical that we can get a real feel for it at night, but we are packing in so many clinics in a short amount of time that this is what worked for all of us. We are met by Mrs. Coral Gandhi – she is the Laboratory Director and VP of Operations and Rotunda. She is warm and friendly and we both immediately like her. The doorway announces their motto “Excellence.” And the interior has beautiful entry room is modern and welcomes with a gorgeous carving of Ganesh (the Hindu deity) draped with marigolds (which I have read please him greatly and are often seen around his neck.) I love the juxtaposition of modern and ancient India all in one place.
Dr. Allahbadia – the Medical Director is meeting us too, but first she gives us the VIP tour. The clinic is quite modern (as are many of the clinics.) They show us the next floor which is where the surrogates go to be screened. They have a large waiting room with chairs set up. Here, when the surrogates apply to the program they first watch a short film telling them what they are in store for. I am actually surprised that no one else has thought of this. It gives them an opportunity to learn a bit more before meeting with the staff and that way they can ask informed questions. Not surprisingly, the exam room was immaculate, and it was decorated by medical certificates (not something we’d seen anywhere else that I can recall, but something we often see in the United States.)
The area for the IPs is on a separate floor from the GSs. We got a huge laugh seeing the sperm collection room. Something every other clinic in the world has – but none that I have ever seen that looks like this one. It’s really quite brilliant (but for those with more delicate sensibilities, close your eyes and read on!
I am guessing they get some good samples in that room!
And now what we were most looking forward to – our meeting with Dr. Guatam Allahbadia. Dr. Allahbadia comes from a family of doctors – his father was an obgyn, and he has a very international feel to him. Possibly it is from his years of working in Israel. His own clinic’s name has a European feel too – taken from Dublin’s Rotunda Clinic – the world’s oldest maternity hospital. He has over 125 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and is on the Editorial Board of several International Journals. Throughout his career, Dr Allahbadia has been instrumental in developing new fertility-enhancing protocols and propagating the use of ultrasound in embryo transfer procedures. The development of a highly successful egg donation program at Rotunda has made it possible to achieve pregnancies in women who have premature ovarian failure. To add to his impressive CV – Dr Allahbadia was responsible for India’s first trans-ethnic surrogate pregnancy involving a Chinese couple’s baby delivered by an unrelated Indian surrogate mother. He also has to his credit India’s first Same-Sex Couple pregnancy and delivery of twins.
India’s Rotunda clinic has multiple location around Mumbai and there are 13 doctors at just this clinic alone. Guatam also brings his Israeli experience to India – Israel is known for it’s great successes in helping women over 40 conceive – and he too feels he is one of the most skilled in India working with “older” fertility patients. Honestly, his confidence is enough to convince me – this is what I want to see in my doctor! He has had a 46 year old achieve a pregnancy and does something called minmal stimulation.
As for egg donors – he has light Indian donors, but works with an outside egg donor agency to supply Caucasian donors – although the patient is the one that needs to follow up once he gives them the referral. One of his next project is setting up an egg bank which will simplify the process of getting Caucasian donors for those who want them.
We did not see his surrogate housing – given the late hour, but we were happy sitting s in the Balinese-style hut, on the rooftop of his clinic, drinking fabulous Indian sparkling wine (that rivaled France’s champagne) for a few hours. Finally, we realized the restaurant would close if we didn’t go for a bite to eat. He did tell us that he can house up to 24 pregnant surrogates in the housing, and they can bring their children if they are not in school. Most come from Mumbai and are married (although they get a few divorced GSs too – but it’s not common.) His clinic is tied to a hospital and all of the GSs delivery there. He releases his GSs to his affiliated OB as soon as there is a positive pregnany test, and they stay on hormone support for 13 weeks. He prefers day 3-ultrasound guided transfers, and because he was involved in drafting the surrogacy guidelines he does not do transfers on two surrogates at the same time (which is not part of the guidelines.) He is able to receive shipped embryos from the US without issue. I truly believe he was honest about his success rates and didn’t inflate them. He said some months 50% and others over 70%. That seems very realistic and he’s not elevating hopes. This is a guy who is a straight shooter, which is a welcome attitude when you are coming from so far away.
Next we went for some excellent chinese food (who knew you could find that in India) and we said good night and hoped to meet again.
So the big question…cost! Well, to be honest it was hard to determine. The doctor told us that one US facilitator charges $36,000 – but that is without a Caucasian egg donor – so you’re going to add anywhere from $10K – $35K for that depending upon where she comes from. Of course there may be c-section costs, additional medical expenses, travel, hotels, etc. In general, the costs for most of the clinics are really in the same range