New Delhi: When the bundle of surrogate joy is delivered to the biological parents, there is happiness in their eyes. But, for the surrogate mother, it can be a heart-wrenching moment, having to let go forever the baby she carried in her womb for nine months, despite the money. It is here that counsellors step in.

They have been speaking to the surrogate mother over several meetings and preparing her for this moment – to give away the baby with the thought that she is doing a good deed, and it is not all just money.

The new mother has to also go through the trauma of stopping the lactation process, which her body was naturally preparing her for. She is given medicines to dry up the milk in her breasts, say experts.

The journey for the surrogate and for the biological mother is lined with several sittings with the counsellor, who prepares both of them psychologically for the process and helps to raise their self-esteem.

Archana Dhawan Bajaj, who runs Nurture IVF Clinic in Naraina, says around 20 sessions are held between the surrogate and the counsellor.

“First, we have to mentally assess whether the woman is fit to be a surrogate and to hand over the baby at the end of nine months. After we have decided on a candidate for surrogacy, we have to mentally prepare her – make her feel she is doing a good thing by carrying someone else’s baby, though she is doing it for money. Her self-esteem increases and her involvement rises. She then comes on her own for check-ups,” Dhawan Bajaj said.

“And while she is handing over the baby she may go through emotional trauma. She will not get an opportunity to breast-feed the baby… medicines are given to stop lactation,” she added.

The biological mother needs to be medically and mentally prepared to go in for surrogacy too.

“She feels I cannot be a mother, I am lacking, suffers from serious lack of self esteem, depression, and needs to be counselled at all times,” she said.

Asked if the surrogate and the biological parents interact, Dhawan Bajaj said they are “encouraged” to meet as often as possible so that they develop a rapport.

Samir Parikh, consulting psychiatrist with Max Healthcare and chief of the mental health and behavioural sciences department, said while he has not tackled any cases of surrogacy, he has counselled several women going in for in-vitro fertilisation.

“The more common symptoms in IVF are distress by the mothers – I cannot have a child – and they sometimes blame themselves,” Parikh said.

“Couples going in for IVF require counselling as the procedure might not be successful in the first attempt.”

Ruchi Goyal, a counsellor with Nurture Clinic, says she gets about 10 surrogacy cases in a month. “But not all get into the programme, some don’t go forward with it”

According to Goyal, couples going in for surrogacy are from upper middle class and “very often the upper crust, but occasionally lower middle class couples come who are very desperate to have a biological child through surrogacy.”

Asked how couples find a surrogate mother, she said: “We encourage them to get their own surrogates.”
Dhawan Bajaj said: “Lots of couples advertise, some find a surrogate from within the family, or they come to know of a candidate by word of mouth, or they find one from among domestic servants.”

What about the money factor?

Dhawan said it is a mutual arrangement between the two parties. Indira Ganeshan, an IVF expert with BLK Hospital in Delhi, said the hospital gets most surrogacy cases from abroad, around 5-10 a month. Local cases are few, around one a month, she said.

How do couples go about looking for surrogacy clinics?

“They go looking in the web, where there is lots of information. They then decide where they want to go –Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore. And once they have zeroed in on the clinic, there are facilitators who facilitate between the clinic and them and the surrogate mother,” Ganeshan said.

According to a website offering facilities for surrogacy in India, the charges a surrogate mother would demand can range from Rs.100,000 to Rs.200,000, plus all the medical and other expenses.

(Agencies)