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Thursday, February 4, 2016


India was the second country in the world after the UK to produce a "test-tube baby" - the Indian girl (Harsha) was born just 67 days after Louise Brown in 1978. India is fast becoming a favoured destination for international medical tourism. With over 3000 fertility clinics, it has become the Mecca for all treatment options for infertility.

Awareness of fertility interventions like IVF is also quite high among the Indian populace itself so Indians from rural or semi-urban areas come to the metros to seek treatment which is not available in their locality.

Another factor making India a popular medical tourist attraction is that of age. Unlike countries with age cut-off limits, it rarely poses a barrier in India. Earlier this year, twin girls conceived by IVF in India were born in the Midlands to a British Indian couple with a combined age of 131. Their mother, thought to be 59, is one of the oldest women in Britain to give birth.

Ethnicity is no problem either. Those making the trip to India are not just people of Indian descent who want a baby who resembles them. Increasingly, they are white couples that have no problem with the idea of having brown babies.

In the global market of commercial fertility, India remains one of the cheapest places to buy gametes. In America the going rate for an egg from an Ivy League student is around $60,000 (£30,000). An Indian egg never fetches more than 40,000 rupees (£500), and in the country's small towns a woman is paid as little as 5,500 rupees (£70).

The combination of the low cost of infertility treatment in India - nearly one-quarter of the cost in developed nations - and the modern ART available there make India a top choice for infertility treatments. Fertility clinics in countries like United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, France, Spain, and Denmark are finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for donor eggs and are turning to India. An average IVF cycle in the US costs $10000 whereas in India it is available for about $ 3000.

The easy availability of egg donors and surrogates in India has also encouraged international patients to consider India as one of the suitable countries to pursue their treatment especially as India is equipped with some of the finest international IVF centres and highly qualified IVF doctors. For instance, the Akanksha clinic in Anand is very well known at home and abroad, giving the small town in Gujarat state the reputation as India's ‘surrogacy capital.’ Nova IVI’s Hyderabad centre has both US and UK trained doctors. Internationally well known also is Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, a favourite among British fertility tourists. More than half his clinic's patients are from abroad. Hundreds who have had no success in their own country, come to the man who says "yes."   He calls his patients "reproductive exiles" from medical establishments that are hostile to their desire to have children.

Malpani also sees no problem with his clinic giving white patients the eggs and embryos of Indian donors, saying, "They've thought about it."

British medical thinking, he says, is not designed with the patient in mind. In Britain for instance,  doctors and patients are encouraged to transfer a maximum of two embryos into the uterus. Any more and the risks of premature birth, smaller babies and children with language and behavourial disorders increases substantially. Malpani transfers up to five embryos. "We have the flexibility to give a woman the best chance," he says. "If they don't get pregnant at all, they are the ones to suffer."
By his own admission, Malpani is a libertarian. He is also a respected fertility expert - his IVF clinic has been named among India's best - with a CV boasting a string of awards and scholarships for his clinical skills.


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