After Global IVF owners, Lauri and Kathryn, returned from their investigative trip to India this past January, we were inundated with questions regarding how surrogates are recruited by surrogacy agencies in India. In the United States, there are fairly typical ways for surrogate recruitment (referrals, advertisements, repeats, etc) and there are standard qualifications that most agencies abide by. However, we were unsure of how surrogacy recruitment was done in India and what the guidelines to become a surrogate were. To provide first hand insight, Global IVF reached out to Dr. Goral Gandhi, Laboratory Director for Rotunda-Center for Human Reproduction in Mumbai. Kathryn and Lauri had previously met with Dr. Gandhi during their trip to India, so they were happy to see that she was willing to honestly and openly answer our questions regarding how a surrogate becomes a surrogate in India.
1) Q – Where do surrogates come from?
A – They come from the lower middle class and lower socio-economic strata of society, and are women who are aware about the IVF and Surrogacy process.
2) Q – How do you find them? (referrals, advertising)
A – We work in collaboration with a third party agency that recruits the surrogates. The agency has a number of social workers and agents who belong to the community working for them. The recruitment process initially starts by placing advertisements in local newspapers. For newer clinics just starting to do surrogacy this would usually be the method of choice. However, over a period of time, as the number of surrogacy cycles done by Rotunda have increased, it is more common for surrogates to come to us via word of mouth. Most potential surrogates hear about the process from a relative or friend who has already been a surrogate mother with us in the past. They then approach the social workers / agents and come forward for the screening & recruitment process through them.
3) Q – What percentage of surrogates who apply are accepted into the program, and what percentage are turned away?
A – This is a variable number as there are various levels of tests that a potential surrogate passes through. Initially, they can get rejected if their paper work (birth date, address and identity proofs etc) is not complete. Thereafter, the ones with complete paper work go through a stringent screening process which involves basic blood tests, advanced blood tests, ultrasound and hysteroscopy as well as psychological screening. A healthy surrogate whose parameters are all found to be satisfactory after this screening would be immediately approved for the program. However, if anything is found lacking medically, legally or in the psychological analysis, the woman may be turned away.
4) Q – Are the surrogates educated? What cultural class are they from?
A – Our surrogates are mostly school drop outs or have just completed school. Very few have attended college to pursue higher studies. However in most instances this has been due to lack of opportunities and even funds in most cases and not owing to any unwillingness or lack of intelligence to study further. All these women belong to the working class, and are from the lower middle or lower socio-economic strata of society. These are women with financial constraints but are current in their awareness of surrogacy and ART. Having faced similar situations as their own children are likely to face these women are forward thinking enough to look at Surrogacy as an option to be able to give the children a better opportunity than they themselves had.
5) Q - Are they ‘poor’ women??
A – Yes, as described above they do usually belong to the lower and lower middle classes of society. However, they are not destitute or homeless.
6) Q – Are they ‘malnourished’ women??
A – No, a malnourished woman would be screened out during the recruitment process and would never be taken up into the program. Therefore the surrogates accepted into our program are not ‘malnourished’.
These are just a few questions we gathered from our users over the past few months. If you have any further questions regarding the surrogate assessment process in India or elsewhere, don’t hesitate to contact us with further inquiries