Sunday, 30 January, 2011

Testosterone Offers New Hope For IVF Success

Many women have the frustrating experience of pursuing costly IVF only to have their cycles cancelled and their hopes dashed when poor ovarian response to stimulation eventuates in them being diagnosed as a ‘poor responder.’

Even when massive doses of gonadotropin stimulants are used, some women's ovaries seem recalcitrant to stimulation and do not produce follicles as expected. Many strategies have been pursued to find novel ways of boosting the ovarian response of poor responders, testosterone is one such strategy that may give such women new hope.

Historically, a number of studies have been performed on the benefits of giving poor responders testosterone prior to IVF as a means of improving IVF response. The results have been very positive thus far.

In a 2011 South Korean study, poor responder women were given a transdermal testosterone gel before ovarian stimulation began. In this study poor responders were defined as women who had failed during previous IVFs to produce more that 3 follicles over 16 mm diameter, despite high gonadotropin stimulation.

The 110 women were randomized to receive either transdermal testosterone pretreatment with 12.5 mg daily for 21 days in the cycle preceding the IVF or a placebo. The results of the study showed that the women who received testosterone pretreatment needed less gonadotropin stimulation and had a significantly higher number of oocytes retrieved. They also had more mature oocytes that fertilized and more high quality embryos.

The testosterone pretreated women also had a higher pregnancy rate and there were no adverse effects from the male hormone treatment. The researchers concluded that;

"TTG pretreatment might be beneficial in improving both response to COS and IVF outcome in low responders undergoing IVF/ICSI."

This study echoes the findings of previous studies that have likewise found that pretreatment with testosterone can offer poor responder women a novel, inexpensive and low-risk way to up the odds of IVF succeeding.

Fertil Steril. 2011 Feb;95(2):679-83.
The effect of transdermal testosterone gel pretreatment on controlled ovarian stimulation and IVF outcome in low responders. Kim CH, Howles CM, Lee HA.

Saturday, 29 January, 2011

Mad, sad or just desperate for fame? Judith Kilshaw failed in her bid to adopt American twins and now wants IVF at 57

Judith Kilshaw is hoping for the inside track on Sir Elton John’s baby son Zachary when we meet. ‘Who do you think the ­father is?’ she asks, referring to news that both ­Elton and his partner David Furnish ­‘contributed’ to the child’s conception.
‘I’m not sure whether it was David Furnish’s sperm or Elton’s,’ she continues. ‘Do you know? Perhaps it was a ­mixture of them both, but I wouldn’t have left it to chance.
‘If you were having someone’s sperm, which one would you go for? The one with no money or the one with money? The one with talent or without talent? I know which one I’d choose.’
I bet she does.
Judith, remember, was vilified as the most hated mother in Britain after she and her former ­husband Alan paid an unscrupulous baby broker in the U.S. £8,200 to adopt six-month-old, mixed-race American twins Belinda and Kimberley, who were put up for sale on the internet.
At the time, Tony Blair called the adoption deal ‘disgusting’ and weeks after their arrival in Britain, Flintshire social services seized the twins. They were returned to the U.S. after a High Court judge annulled the adoption, branding the Kilshaws ‘media obsessed’ with no genuine concern for the twins’ welfare.
The controversial legal battle cost the couple everything — the babies, their jobs, their £230,000 farmhouse in Buckley, North Wales, and their 14-year-marriage.
You might have thought Judith had had a stomach full of notoriety. But it seems not. Now, on the tenth anniversary of the scandal surrounding the twins — bought for the price of a Fiat Panda — Judith, 57, has decided she wants to go to Italy for IVF treatment.
‘It’s getting later and later,’ she says. ‘I think it would be nice to cement our relationship.’ By our, she means her ­relationship with her new husband Stephen Sillett, who is 13 years her junior and whom she married in April 2009. Or at least I think she means Stephen.
To my surprise, her ex-husband is here too, in the Silletts’ cramped terrace home near Wrexham in North Wales. They are, they say, the best of friends after Alan gave Judith away at her wedding to Stephen.
‘I didn’t actually leave the marriage,’ says Judith. ‘We’re all here together. It’s an absolutely unique situation.’
It certainly is, but back to the IVF. Why on earth would a woman of 57, with four children from two earlier marriages, want a baby?
‘I guess it’s my way of proving I was right all the time,’ she says. ‘The social services deemed we were not good enough to look after two girls, but we were.’
Oh, so I presume she was heartbroken when the little girls were taken from her. Does she miss them?
‘No,’ says Judith. ‘Time’s moved on. They’re in America [the twins live with foster parents in a quiet ­suburb of St Louis, Missouri] and we’re in Britain. There’s no point missing them.’
So why IVF? Her answer is both bizarre and deeply chilling.
‘You’ve probably got a good career, plenty of cash and your life’s sorted,’ she says. ‘Not everybody’s lives are like that. I wanted to go on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here with Christine Hamilton.
‘We were in a question-and-answer session with the Hamiltons once. I stood up and said to her: “People often call me the poor man’s Christine Hamilton. Do they ever call you the rich man’s Judith Kilshaw?” The whole place fell about.
‘Being in the jungle with her would have been interesting to me — or Wife Swap.’
What? Is Judith ­actually saying she wants a baby to forge a media career? Surely she’s pulling my leg — but, no, she’s not. She continues: ‘It’ll only happen if this case comes off.’
Ah yes, the case. The Kilshaws, you see, are seeking damages from their local authority Flintshire County Council for what they say is the unlawful removal of their adopted children.
Owing to the privacy laws in cases involving children, it’s not possible to go into the exact whys and wherefores here, but suffice to say Alan has enlisted the support of his local Tory Welsh Assembly member and has a file of letters from the authority, which he claims gives weight to his charge of a cover-up.
‘I’d like a review of the case and I’d like the irregularities that I believe went on to be looked into,’ says Alan. ‘If they’re proven to have gone on, first I’d like a high-profile apology and, secondly, it needs to be looked into how this has affected my life. It has, very seriously.
‘It’s ruined my career [Alan, a ­housing law solicitor was struck off by The Law Society following the furore] and it’s affected my health. I now ­suffer with diabetes. One of the main causes of diabetes is stress.
‘I also have high blood pressure, ­cholesterol problems, high blood sugar — a whole range of things that are all interlinked.’ So how much compensation is he seeking? Judith chips in. ‘Very much,’ she says. ‘I want £1million for me and the same for Alan.’
Stephen, who’s sitting next to Judith on an oversized leather sofa in this ­cluttered sitting room, perks up: ‘I’ve seen examples of the aggressive behaviour Judith has had to put up with. We’ve had people shout things like “childnappers” and “you’re that ’effing Kilshaw woman”.
‘The abuse Alan and Judith have had to endure because of what’s ­happened is ­terrible. Alan’s been very affected. I feel sorry for the bloke. He’s my best friend.’
Alan continues: ‘The thing is, once the media goes away after something like this, the individual is left to pick up the pieces and that’s very hard.
‘You find yourself in a state of limbo. Obviously there are people from The X Factor or Big Brother who end up making media careers, and if you can get to that point that’s fine. But we didn’t have that chance.’
He reflects for a moment. ‘I ­remember some bloke saying we were the third most highly recognised ­people in the world.’ The world? Surely not. Judith jumps in: ‘We were in an Indian restaurant in Bishop’s Castle and they got all the chefs out, the washers-up, everybody, saying: “Come and meet them. Come and meet them.” We got invited out to Bengal.
There were thousands of letters, too. I burnt some. I got to recognise the regulars’ handwriting. But when Angelina Jolie or Madonna adopt a child, they’re put in OK Magazine and on the telly. What’s wrong with me doing it?
‘Are you saying that if a child is in India and living on a tip, eating off a tip, working and being exploited, that’s morally better than somebody giving them a home that wants them?’
No. But come on, what sort of ­person adopts a child, or attempts IVF for that matter, as a career move?
Stephen, who also has two ­children from a previous relationship and runs his own cleaning business, interjects: ‘Tony Blair uses his children. Anyway, Judith is a very moral person. She can’t stand injustice.’
Judith nods solemnly: ‘I’m Saint Judith, patron saint of lost causes.’ Strewth. I can honestly say in 20-odd years of journalism I have never encountered such a deluded woman.
But the ­chilling truth is, in this bonkers age of kiss-and-tell celebrity not to mention an unregulated international baby and IVF market, she might just get what she wants. God forbid.
Judith’s saintliness, you see, doesn’t really extend to responsible ­parenting. In fact, it’s fair to say, she doesn’t seem to have a maternal bone in her body.
She already has four children, James, 17, and Rupert, 14, from her marriage to Alan, and two grown-up daughters, Louisa, 31, and her 28-year-old sister Caley.
But she walked out on the boys five years ago to set up home with Stephen, whom she met in a ­Chester nightclub, and hasn’t spoken to her daughters in years.
‘Oh, Caley was an absolute ­tragedy,’ she says. ‘She was spoilt to death — ­disrespectful, spoilt. Everything she saw she demanded. She had 16 horses. She’d get one horse, love it and a week later it would be too big, too fast, too small.’
I wonder where she is now. ‘She’s, what do you call her, an alien in America. She’s in ­Seattle as far as we know, but we don’t know for sure. I haven’t spoken to her for four years. The other one’s in Preston, or Prescott is it?’
And the boys?
‘I asked them if they wanted to come with me or stay with their dad. I suppose it was just ­easier for them to stay.’
Don’t you miss them? ‘No.’ But they’re your children. You gave birth to them. ‘Oh, James was a horrendous baby,’ she says. ‘Put Alan off babies for life, didn’t it? He never stopped crying. Rupert was better.
‘When I was pregnant with him I thought he was a girl. I’ve actually found out the sex is decided later in the ­pregnancy. So he was a girl and he became a boy later. I don’t know how long it takes.’
Which is, of course, complete ­nonsense. Anyway, back to the adoption. Given her — well, let’s say lukewarm — response to motherhood, why adopt twin girls?
‘We didn’t ask for twins, and we didn’t specifically ask for a baby,’ she says. ‘We said we wanted a child who could be up to probably five, but we didn’t want to take someone who was 12 and settled in America.
‘I wanted a sister for the boys because Alan always wished he’d had a sister. So we thought it would be nice for both of them.
‘When we heard it was twins, we thought: “Well, we might as well have two.” If you’re making one ­bottle, you can just as easily make another.
‘Don’t forget, I had an army of people to help me — my mum, Caley, the cleaner, child minders, nannies. Yes, an army of people. I suppose a bit like Elton John.
‘When we got to San Diego to pick them up, I just felt relief. We’d flown on a tin-can plane from ­Chicago to San Diego and I’d gone deaf in my ears. We were knackered.
‘Can you believe the birth mother wanted us to have them that night? We’d flown for 12 hours with no sleep, but she insisted.
‘She said: “They’ll be good. They won’t cry.” But they did.
‘Alan was trying to get away from the noise by climbing into the wardrobe at one time, weren’t you? He was that tired.’
Alan nods: ‘We were accused of all kinds of things and found out once the case was ­finished that these children suffered from a condition called ­reactive attachment ­disorder, ­meaning they failed to bond with their parents.
‘They’d been passed around so much. We were accused of ­damaging them, but we couldn’t have done because they’d already been harmed.’ This is said with the lack of ­emotion that one might speak of a faulty clutch.
So how did they feel when the babies were taken from their care?
Alan says: ‘I was angry. We paid for the facility to adopt them. We’d had a private home study [where ­private agencies rather than social workers carried out investigations into their suitability to adopt] and hadn’t done anything illegal.’
Following legislation brought in by the then Labour government, such private adoptions are now ­illegal in this country.
‘I do think, though, that Judith handled some of the press badly. [She had a scuffle with a newspaper reporter.] What made me depressed is it just seemed impossible to change what people were thinking and writing. People have said to me: “Why do you keep doing stuff with the media?” The answer is I wanted them to get the real me.
‘If the press had been decent and written what they should have ­written, everything would have been so much easier.’
I’m sure. So, in the interests of decent ­journalism, let’s clear up one little question. Which relationship is Judith hoping to cement with the IVF treatment? ‘IVF,’ roars Stephen. ‘That’s news to me. I don’t think I’d be ­interested in being a father.’
Crikey. What about you, Alan?
‘I think once you get beyond the age of 50, you should leave it alone. It gets to the point where it gets irresponsible,’ he says — which is the first sensible thing that’s been uttered in the past two hours.
Then he adds: ‘But never say never.’ Oh dear, haven’t these two learned any lessons in the past ten years?
‘Oh yes,’ says Alan. ‘When people have said: “If you had your time again is there anything you’d do ­differently?”, I’ve always said: “Yes, there’s one thing. I’d have got an agent involved. Someone like Max Clifford.” ’ Enough said.


Friday, 28 January, 2011

IVF deaths are rare but relevant

Although still rare, maternal deaths related to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are a key indicator of risks to older women, those with multiple pregnancy and those with underlying disease, warn experts in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal today. Dr Susan Bewley and colleagues argue that serious adverse outcomes related to IVF treatment, such as ovarian hyperstimulation sydrome (a complication caused by some fertility drugs), should be systematically reported so that lessons can be learnt and appropriate action taken.
In 1991, the first published report of a maternal death related to IVF predicted that rates would rise with increasing use of assisted reproductive technologies as a result of pregnancies at an older age, multiple pregnancies, and pre-eclampsia.
A recent study from the Netherlands also showed convincingly that overall mortality in IVF pregnancies was higher than the maternal mortality rate in the general population in the Netherlands (there were about 42 mothers' deaths per 100,000 IVF pregnancies compared to 6 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies overall), a fact confirmed from results in the UK.
The last UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Death recorded four deaths directly related to IVF via ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and three deaths related to multiple pregnancy after IVF.
Thus, more deaths were related to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome than to abortion (two) despite many fewer IVF procedures (for example, there were 48,829 IVF cycles v 198,500 abortions in the UK in 2007), say the authors. They also warn that IVF associated maternal deaths may be underestimates as confidentiality restrictions under the Human Fertilisation Act preclude accurate data.
The global industry has operated on an assumption that women undergoing assisted reproduction are healthier than average thus ensuring safer pregnancies, but the maternal mortality figures suggests otherwise, they argue. Even though IVF pregnancy is still very safe, they add, deaths may reflect a far greater burden of severe adverse morbidity. They believe that better information about the risks of fertility treatment is needed, better identification of high risk women, and more single embryo transfer as the norm to prevent death and disability.
"More stringent attention to stimulation regimens, pre-conceptual care, and pregnancy management is needed so that maternal death and severe morbidity do not worsen further," they conclude.
Provided by British Medical Journal (news : web)

Wednesday, 26 January, 2011

Sperm donor campaign worth a shot!

A racy ad campaign to fight a sperm donor shortage has had spectacular results for an Adelaide IVF clinic.

Fertility specialist Repromed's "Don't Waste Your Sperm" advertisements, which recently appeared in men's magazine FHM, have led to a thousandfold increase in local inquiries.

The full page advertisement directed readers to an online test which received more than 100,000 hits.

Almost 5000 people completed the survey, with more than 1000 men going on to approach the clinic for more information.

The cheeky campaign urged men to take an online test to assess their donor potential and then allowed them to boast about their results by posting them on Facebook or Twitter.

"Take this simple test to see if your sperm has the potential to father more kiddies than Brangelina," it read.

While numbers of interested men have soared, the exhaustive screening process meant the campaign may have yielded just three possible donors.

"But due to what it entails, and that every donor can provide sperm to 10 families, it is still a really positive result," said medical director Dr Richard Henshaw.

Tuesday, 25 January, 2011

Hyderabadi Rocks!!!

Mom : Kaiku rora re potte ?

Son : Teacher mari Merku

Mother : Kaiku mari chudel ne

Son : us ku MURGI bola

Mother : Kaiku Bola

Son : Kaiku boleto…. har exam me andach deri !!!

Monday, 24 January, 2011

India Marches Against Corruption - There is still some hope!

Thousands of people will take to streets to demand effective anti-corruption law

J M Lyngdoh, Swami Agnivesh, Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare, Prashant Bhushan, Most Reverend Vincent M Concessao Archbishop of Delhi and others will march from Ramlila Grounds to Jantar Mantar on 30th January, the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, at 1 pm to demand enactment of a law to set up an effective anti-corruption body called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta in each state (the existing Lokayukta Acts are weak and ineffective).

Kiran Bedi, Justice Santosh Hegde, Prashant Bhushan, J M Lyngdoh and others have drafted this Bill. Please visit the web-site for full text of this Bill. A nation wide movement called “India Against Corruption” has been started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Agnivesh, Most Reverend Vincent M Concessao Archbishop of Delhi, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Anna Hazare, Devinder Sharma, Sunita Godara, Mallika Sarabhai and many others to persuade government to enact this Bill.

Mrs Sonia Gandhi recently announced that Lokpal would be set up. However, the Lokpal suggested by the government is only a showpiece. It will have jurisdiction over politicians but not bureaucrats, as if politicians and bureaucrats indulge in corruption separately. And the most interesting part is that like other anti-corruption bodies in our country, the government is making Lokpal also an advisory body. So, Lokpal will recommend to the government to prosecute its ministers. Will any prime minister have the political courage to do that?

Please participate in large numbers in this march to persuade the government to enact the Bill drafted by the people. Please turn overleaf to read how this Bill will help in effectively checking corruption.

Can India turn around?

There was much worse corruption in Hong Kong in 1970s than we have in India today. Collusion between police and mafia increased and crime rate went up. Lakhs of people came on the streets. As a result, the government had to set up an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which was given complete powers. In the first instance, ICAC sacked 119 out of 180 police officers. This sent a strong message to the bureaucracy that corruption would not be tolerated. Today, Hong Kong has one of the most honest governance machinery. India can also turn around if we also had similar anti-corruption body. Hong Kong government enacted ICAC Bill because lakhs of people came on streets.
Join the march on 30th January (Assembly at 1 pm at Ramlila Ground, New Delhi)

If you plan to join or volunteer with us, do call us +919717460029

How will the Lokpal Bill drafted by citizens help curb corruption?

Sunday, 23 January, 2011

Crocodile swallows Nokia Phone!

Say what you will about Nokia and its inability to catch up with the Apple and Google, the company knows how to pump out a phone that can take a pounding and still work. Don’t believe me? Well, a Nokia phone was eaten by a Ukrainian crocodile and it still rang inside its stomach.

The 14-year-old crocodile Gena snatched the Nokia phone from a tourist’s hands as it was trying to take a dramatic picture of the creature. The would-be Ansel Adams of the crocodile world dropped the Nokia phone in the water and Gena quickly swallowed the delicious cellular device.

Workers didn’t believe the person but then they called the Nokia phone and it rang inside the crocodile’s tummy. While it’s a funny little tale, it appears that Nokia doesn’t make the best entrees, as Gena isn’t eating food, not playing with other crocodiles and is generally listless.

According to the Associated Press:

Dnipropetrovsk chief veterinarian Oleksandr Shushlenko said the crocodile will be taken for an X-ray next week if he continues to refuse food. Surgically removing the phone would be a last resort, he said, since incisions and stitches usually take at least three weeks to heal in reptiles and the procedure is dangerous for the animal and the vets.

“Everything will depend on where the foreign body is located,” Shushlenko said. “We don’t have much experience working with such large animals.”

God, we’re quickly changing to IntoAnimals, as this is the second animal story I’ve written in the last few days. Yesterday, we learned that Verizon 3G will help live stream the birth of a bear.

Let’s hope Gena gets better.

Saturday, 22 January, 2011

Surrogacy: the brave new world of making babies

As actress Nicole Kidman becomes the latest star to take delivery from a surrogate mother, the social and moral boundaries of reproduction are becoming increasingly blurred. Hollywood stars are good at paying tribute to the production teams who helped them create their latest masterpiece. But last week, when actress Nicole Kidman and her musician husband announced the birth of a baby girl – and thanked the “gestational carrier” in whose womb she grew – they conjured up a Brave New World indeed.
In Aldous Huxley’s chilling dystopia, natural reproduction has been abolished, with children created in bottling factories and decanted, to be brought up in hatcheries and conditioning centres.
Issuing a statement on Monday, hours after shimmering tautly at the Golden Globes, Kidman said no words could adequately convey the gratitude that she and husband Keith Urban felt to those who supported them through the process, and in particular to their gestational carrier.
Yet it was precisely this inelegant euphemism for surrogate mother – perhaps an attempt by baby Faith Margaret’s biological parents to assert their authority – which calls to mind Huxley’s vision of 2540.
The pronouncement came days before singer Sir Elton John, 63, and partner David Furnish, 48, shared the first images of their baby son, born via a surrogacy arrangement on Christmas Day. The celebrity pair said they had “no clue” which of them was the father of Zachary Jackson Levon, both having contributed sperm samples to be mixed with eggs donated anonymously.
Is this just the stuff of Hollywood – or a glitzed-up mirror to a new world of reproduction, where traditional social and moral conventions are quickly changing?
Natalie Gamble is one of this country’s leading fertility lawyers, specialising in surrogacy. A lesbian mother of two children (both born via donor insemination), she won a landmark legal case last year, in which two British parents were allowed to keep a child who had been born via commerical surrogacy.
Since Britain’s first official surrogate birth, in 1985, laws have limited payments to cover only what is described as “reasonable expenses”, such as loss of income. Women cannot make a profit by “renting out” their wombs, nor can infertile couples pay such rates to surrogates, even if they live in countries with different laws.
But, last month, Mr Justice Hedley explained how he had allowed a British couple to keep their child, despite the fact that they made higher payments to a surrogate living in Illinois, in the United States, where there is no ceiling on amounts.
In making the ruling, he went further, saying that the welfare of the child was the paramount consideration,
and future cases would be rejected only in the “clearest case of the abuse of public policy”.
Ms Gamble, a partner at Gamble and Ghevaert, says: “The ruling was pretty important. It doesn’t change British law, but it shifts the focus within it, so that people know that, if they do go abroad and pay more than expenses, the chances are that those deals will be ratified afterwards.”
Support groups for surrogacy believe many women who want children but are unable to carry them will feel they have no alternative.
In October, Surrogacy UK, which brings together potential surrogates with intended parents, was forced to close its waiting lists for those seeking surrogacy, such is demand.
Kim Cotton, Britain’s first surrogate mother, was paid £6,500 when she had a child for an infertile Swedish couple, using her own eggs and the sperm of the father, 26 years ago.
Estimates suggest that, since then, about 750 children have been born in this country of such arrangements, with “expenses” payments averaging about £15,000.
Soon after the birth, Mrs Cotton, who had already had two children with her husband, said: “You can cut off all maternal feeling if you try hard enough.”
She has never met her child, nor the couple who brought her up. Now a grandmother, aged 54, she does not regret her place in British fertility history, but she believes it was both wrong and damaging that a relationship was never forged between the parties involved. A later happier agreement saw her carry twins – unpaid – for a friend with fertility problems.
Yesterday, details emerged of a surrogate mother allowed to keep her baby girl after refusing to hand her over to the prospective parents.
Explaining his ruling, Mr Justice Baker said on Friday that the woman – the biological mother of six-month-old child T – was better able to meet the girl’s needs than were the married couple, who were alleged to have a violent relationship. Surrogacy support groups insist that such disputes remain rare.
Jayne Frankland, 45, from Herefordshire, tells perhaps Britain’s most unusual surrogacy story. She is bringing up a child born via surrogacy, has acted as a surrogate three times – and in between has had four children who were conceived naturally.
She and her husband Mark had been married for more than 10 years and had undergone repeated fertility treatments in their attempts to start a family when they decided to contact a surrogate agency. After four months of insemination with Mark’s sperm, the surrogate, Susan, a mother-of-two, became pregnant with baby Abigail, who is now 14.
Three years later, to her amazement, Mrs Frankland discovered she was pregnant. Her fertility had spontaneously recovered and she was now producing eggs. Four children – Sam, 11, Charlie, 10, Elisabeth, seven, and Scarlet, three – followed.
Because of their experiences, the couple had become members of support group Surrogacy UK. Soon after Elisabeth was born, they got to know a couple who were desperate to have a child. It was their eldest child Abigail, then seven, who asked Mrs Frankland if she could have a child for somebody else “now that your tummy is mended”.
Mrs Frankland has now done that twice, giving birth to Isaac, now six, and Hector, five, for two more couples. She is currently three months pregnant for another couple. In the 14 years since Abigail was born, she belives that the stigma attached to surrogacy has almost evaporated.
“When we had Abigail, I was afraid of what people would think. I wondered how they would treat us – would they accept her? Would we be outcasts or be seen as buying a baby? Compared with how it used to be, people really don’t bat an eyelid any more.”
She acts as surrogate, she says, because of her empathy for those struggling to have a family. She believes that no one would enter lightly into surrogacy, or choose it for convenience, or to maintain a figure: “I don’t think anyone who wanted children would choose this as an option over anything else.”
But it is the ethics for the surrogate mothers and the risks of exploitation that most concern fertility experts.
Dr Gillian Lockwood, a fertility doctor and vice-chairman of the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynaecologists’ ethics committee, believes the current British laws restricting payments are hard to justify.
In response to a national shortage of eggs and sperm donated for fertility treatment, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is currently consulting on proposals to raise the amount donors can be paid.
But the rules on surrogacy remain mired in controversy, and, so far, watchdogs and Parliament have shown little appetite to relax the current restrictions, which say payments should not overtake expenses.
Dr Lockwood says: “If you can pay for egg and sperm donors, it starts to look ridiculous that a woman can agree to carry a child for nine months and all they can get is a bit of money to buy a few maternity frocks. It would have made good sense to include this in the HFEA review rather than doing law on a case-by-case basis, which introduces a lot of uncertainty.”
The difficulty, as the fertility doctor acknowledges, is that, if the rates are too high, “temptations can become irrestistable for those living on the margins”.
Looking abroad, the global economy in surrogacy makes it almost impossible for “fair rates” to be set.
Since 2002, when India legalised the practice, it has become a world centre for surrogacy tourism, expected to generate £1.5 billion for the country annually by next year.
Dr Lockwood says: “If you have a woman in India with two children who she is struggling to bathe and feed, and one surrogacy arrangement means she can send them to school and build a house, is that exploitation? Renting a womb out might seem a much better option than a year of breaking rocks.”
Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility lecturer at the University of Sheffield, says the ethical issues are different but just as complex on home turf. “I worry particularly about the cases involving family members, who might feel under intense pressure to act as a surrogate. Areas like that are a great concern,” he says.
While media commentators have been in turn vitriolic and squeamish about the latest cases, with Sir Elton John accused of treating babies as the latest “must-have” accessory in an extravagant lifestyle, some religious figures express a deeper unease.
The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester recently told The Sunday Telegraph of his concerns that the introduction of a “third party” into parenthood would affect the child psychologically. He also highlighted the age of Sir Elton, who turns 64 in March. “It is very important for a child’s parents to be of an age that provides the child with a fair chance of being brought up by them without unnecessary disrupution,” he said.
Naturally, where ethical commentators see an issue that is divisive and explosive, popular entertainment sees a ratings opportunity.
Barely recovered from the furore over its controverisal cot death/baby swap storyline, BBC soap opera EastEnders is reportedly planning to dramatise a surrogacy plot, involving gay characters Christian Clarke and Syed Masood.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the dramatic potential of reproductive technology had been detected. In 1946, Aldous Huxley reconsidered the futuristic satire – or prophecy – he had penned 15 years earlier.
“Technically and ideologically, we are still a long way from bottled babies,” he concluded – 32 years before the birth of Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby.
And what of the rest of his brave new world? He looked again at the picture he had painted for 2540, with its widespread promiscuity and babies being decanted, hatched and then conditioned to live in a state that was almost free of emotion.
His verdict: “Today it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single century.”
By Laura Donnelly, The Telegraph

Friday, 21 January, 2011

Fertility expert: IVF discount in return for eggs is exploitation

One of Britain's leading fertility experts today accused clinics of exploiting women by offering them cut-price IVF in return for their eggs.

Professor Robert Winston said that schemes where patients are encouraged to share their eggs with infertile women were wrong.

Lord Winston said: "Egg-sharing is a very bad idea and an easy way of exploiting women wanting treatment. It's a pretty devastating scenario to give eggs to someone else and that other person gets pregnant and you don't. Then 20 years later you're contacted by that child. It's shocking."

Lord Winston said he supported a change in the law to allow payments for egg donation. At present, egg donors can be compensated up to £250 but proposals published by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority this week suggest they could in future be paid several thousand pounds.

The HFEA consultation also covers sperm donors, egg-sharing and the ethics of clinics offering "inducements" in return for eggs.

Peter Bowen-Simpkins, medical director of the London Women's Clinic which runs an egg-sharing scheme, said his clinic opposed payments to egg donors as they might not appreciate the health risks of fertility medication. "It's asking young people, especially students with debts, to donate and could permanently harm them," he said. "With egg-sharing, women are already undergoing IVF and know the risks."

Elaine O'Hara, 30, of Hampshire, and civil partner Suzanne, 29, started fertility treatment at the LWC last autumn. The couple, who are in the Army, are taking part in the egg-sharing scheme in return for part of their treatment costs. Ms O'Hara, an accountant, said: "I decided to donate eggs because we couldn't conceive and have a family without a (sperm) donor.

"More people would come forward if donors are paid - of course money would be an incentive. But I don't know if that guarantees the quality of eggs. It was made clear that if another women conceives with my eggs then we might get a 16-year-old contacting us. That would be exciting though."

The Government is also under pressure over the ban on paying women who act as surrogate mothers. Actress Nicole Kidman, 43, and her husband Keith Urban have revealed that they have become parents to a girl born with a surrogate mother last month. The couple are the biological parents of Faith Margaret, They already have a two-year-old daughter, Sunday Rose.

Thursday, 20 January, 2011

First Genetic Test for Predicting IVF Success

A researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has helped to develop the first genetic blood test for predicting the chances that in vitro fertilization (IVF) will lead to a successful pregnancy. The test, reported in the online medical journal PLoS ONE, is based on the finding that different subtypes of the FMR1 gene (also known as the fragile X mental retardation gene) in potential mothers are associated with significantly different chances of conceiving with IVF.
"This is the first evidence that a specific gene appears to be directly associated with IVF outcomes," said David Barad, M.D., associate clinical professor of epidemiology & population health and of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at Einstein and one of the study's senior authors. Dr. Barad is also director of assisted reproduction at the Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) in New York City.
"Our research also suggests the FMR1 gene, some forms of which are known to predict premature ovarian failure, could be used to predict at what age a woman's fertility is going to start decreasing," he added.
The study also supports the belief that autoimmunity (immunity to one's own cells or tissues) plays a role in infertility -- a controversial topic among reproductive medicine specialists.
The study involved 339 female infertility patients who underwent a total of 455 IVF cycles at CHR. The researchers investigated the relationship between three different FMR1 genotypes and pregnancy outcomes and autoimmunity levels. Women with the "normal" FMR1 genotype had a 38.6 percent pregnancy rate; those with the "heterozygous-normal/high" genotype had a 31.7 percent pregnancy rate; and women found to have the "heterozygous-normal/low" genotype had a 22.2 percent pregnancy rate.
The genotype associated with the lowest pregnancy rate (heterozygous-normal/low) was also associated with increased measures of autoimmunity. Women with this genotype also had a higher incidence of polycystic ovary syndrome (a common cause of infertility), which is thought to have an autoimmune component. "Previous studies have suggested that autoimmunity plays a role in infertility," said Dr. Barad. "Now, for the first time, we have a potential genetic mechanism that underlies several different threats to infertility."
The cost of the blood test for the FMR1 should be relatively low -- comparable to screening tests for Tay-Sachs and other genetic diseases. While the FMR1 gene test is not yet clinically available, "It's likely that the findings will lead to clinical applications in the future," said Dr. Barad.
"Any test that is proven to have predictive value for a woman's fertility would give her a heads up in terms of planning a family," he added. "For instance, if a woman planning to go to law school or medical school learns she has a certain amount of risk of losing her ovarian function before she is 35, she may choose to bank her eggs or try having children at an earlier age, rather than delay."

Wednesday, 19 January, 2011

Vitrolife receives patent protection for Swemed Sense needle in European markets

Swemed Sense™ is a unique needle that is used for the collection of oocytes in connection with IVF. The approved patent means that Vitrolife has both design protection and product patent protection for Swemed Sense™ in strategically important European markets. A patent has also been applied for in other prioritized markets.

A recently presented study shows that Swemed Sense™ gives less pain and bleeding during the collection of oocytes, compared with a conventional needle.

Swemed Sense™ has a unique design, as advantages from both thin and thick needles are combined in one and the same needle. Swemed Sense™ is designed with a thinner front part and tip so as to minimize tissue damage, bleeding and pain. The rear part of the needle has a larger diameter, which means that the needle is stable and at the same time maintains flow and speed.

The market for needles used in the collection of oocytes for IVF is estimated to amount to approximately 40 million Euros globally.

Tuesday, 18 January, 2011

Couple's baby joy after spending £54k on IVF treatment

When she lost her son Jack to meningitis, just weeks before his second birthday, ­Jennifer Heneghan’s world fell apart.
She was a single mum and ­everything she did revolved around her little boy. But as she battled to cope with her grief at just 23, ­doctors dealt her another ­devastating blow – she would never be a mum again.
But despite being told she was infertile, Jennifer refused to give up on her dream of having another child.
And now, after years of trying and £54,000 spent on IVF treatment she has finally given birth to her longed-for baby.
Jennifer, 33, says: “I didn’t want to replace Jack. Nothing ever could. I simply wanted to be a mum again. To lose a child is unbearable; to then be told you can never have any more shatters you.
“I just couldn’t give up and thank goodness we didn’t. Now when people ask I say I have two sons.”
Jack was born when she was 21. Though she split with his dad shortly after the birth and life hadn’t turned out as she’d planned it, as a single mum at 21, Jennifer couldn’t have been happier.
“Jack was my world. I loved being a mummy and the two of us were joined at the hip,” she recalls.
But just a few weeks before his second ­birthday, Jack went off his food and became clingy and lethargic.
A worried Jennifer took him to the GP who prescribed ­antibiotics for a ­suspected infection.
But as the days passed Jack got worse and one night, with his temperature soaring, he seemed difficult to rouse.
Jennifer rushed him to ­Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, Berkshire, but was advised to take him home and continue with the medication.
Only hours later Jack’s eyes became glazed and he started gasping for breath.
Jennifer’s mum called an ambulance and he was rushed back to the hospital. “A crash team were waiting and whisked him straight off,” ­Jennifer remembers. “We were taken to the relatives’ room and that’s when I heard the ‘M’ word.”
She was told Jack had ­suffered a heart attack caused by ­meningitis. He was on life support.
“When the doctor told me to call Jack’s family, in my heart I knew he was never coming home. A piece of me died right then,” she says.
Just three hours later Jack’s fight was over. “I screamed in shock and broke down,” recalls Jennifer. “I don’t even remember the next few weeks. I should have been planning his second birthday, not his funeral.”
In time Jennifer moved on and fell in love with best friend Marie’s brother Kevin, a National Grid engineer.
“It helped that Kevin had known Jack,” says Jennifer. “I don’t think I could have been with someone who didn’t know him because he was such a big part of my life.”
The couple discussed kids and both agreed they wanted to try. “I didn’t want to replace Jack but I knew life would always be empty without ­children for me,” she says. “I ­wanted to be a mum and I knew Kevin would be an excellent dad.” The couple decided to get married the following ­summer but started trying for a baby straight away.
But the wedding came and went with no news so they decided to ask doctors for some advice.
And after being referred to hospital for tests, ­Jennifer’s dreams were about to be destroyed.
“The consultant ­explained that I had ­developed a condition that had fused my tubes ­together,” ­explains Jennifer. “I asked what they could do and he just shook his head and said nothing. I was ­infertile.” Jennifer was only 25.
“It took a few minutes for it to sink in. I was stunned. I’d got ­pregnant so easily with Jack it seemed impossible.Apparently now I had more chance of winning the lottery than having a baby.”
For Jennifer the pain of losing Jack came flooding back. He’d been her only chance at motherhood and she’d lost him. The couple asked to have her tubes flushed to remove the blockages but it failed.
“It looked like there really was no hope. But then Kevin suggested we cancel a holiday we were ­planning and put the money ­towards IVF instead,” she says.
But four painful attempts and £25,000 later, Jen, who manages a care home for adults with learning difficulties, was still not pregnant.
“It was like being on a rollercoaster,” she ­recalls. “One minute up, the next minute ­heartbroken at another failed attempt.”
And then to top it all off Jennifer developed Bell’s Palsy – a weakness of the facial muscles – which made her look like she’d had a stroke.
“The doctor said it could be stress-induced because of the worry of the IVF,” she says. “He advised me to start looking after myself and he was right. After four cycles in as many years everything had taken a back seat to IVF and we needed a break.”
For the next three years Jennifer and Kevin, now 35, ­focused on their ­relationship – enjoying holidays and time ­together without the pressure of treatment cycles. But the yearning for a baby got stronger.
So in 2008 the couplecontacted London’s ­Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology ­Centre and signed up for another course.
Just three weeks later, Jennifer found out she was ­pregnant with twins.
But their joy was short-lived after ­Jennifer miscarried at six weeks.
“I told Kevin I wasn’t sure I could go through it all again,” she says. By this time Jennifer was 33 and the couple had already forked out a huge £40,000.
Over the eight years they had been trying to conceive, the couple spent all their money on IVF giving up holidays and even missing out on home improvements. They had taken out one loan of £4,000 early in the process.
But they agreed to have one last shot using the two frozen eggs they had left. And when they realised it would cost another £14,000 to have the eggs thawed and implanted they turned to Jen’s parents for the money.
It was their first frozen cycle and they were apprehensive, ­especially when one egg didn’t survive. But the other did and two weeks later, Jennifer was pregnant again.
For Jennifer, the whole ­pregnancy was fraught with worry. She was terrified the worst would happen again, especially when a blood clot developed in her womb.
But week after week, her regular scans showed their baby clinging on. At 14 weeks they found out it was a boy. Then at 34 weeks ­Jennifer went into early labour and had baby Tiernan. At just 5lb 10oz he was taken to baby care, but the next day she got to hold him. At 18 days he was allowed home.
And now he’s seven months old. “After what we went through it doesn’t matter what he cost because we feel like we have won the ­lottery,” Jennifer beams. “We never gave up on our dream and finally it came true. I can never thank Mum and Dad enough because the money they gave us bought us Tiernan.”
Jennifer thinks Tiernan is the image of his big brother Jack.
“People always used to tell me how Jack was cheeky but adorable at the same time – and Tiernan is the same,” she says. “The older he gets the more he looks like Jack with the same mousey hair and blue eyes.”
And while Jennifer ­admits being a mum in her 30s is much more tiring, she’s ­loving every minute.
“I don’t take anything for granted and I’m afraid to say he has me wrapped around his little finger.
“He’s the miracle I’ve waited years for and he’s here in my arms at last. When I’m cuddling him I look at his little face and know it was worth every minute of the pain and ­anguish of IVF.”
Needless to say the family had their best Christmas ever last month.
“There’s only one word to describe the presents piled under our tree – shameless!” she laughs.
“I never thought I’d be ­opening presents with a child again on Christmas Day. How could I not go over the top with him?
“It used to be a sombre day because it’s all about children and just reminded us what we couldn’t have. Now Tiernan is the best gift of all.”

Monday, 17 January, 2011

Clowning helps IVF patients become pregnant: study

Dr. Shevach Friedler an infertility doctor with the Infertility and IVF unit at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, in Zrifin, Israel, led a study of the effects of a bedside encounter with a professional medical clown on the pregnancy rate of women undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Dr. Friedler and colleagues tracked 219 women undergoing IVF treatment at the medical center and, over a period of a year, treated half of them to a medical clown's 15-minute routine of jokes, magic tricks and other clowning immediately after their embryos were implanted. The clown’s routine was created especially for the study by Friedler and a colleague.
The results showed 36.4 percent of women exposed to clowning immediately after embryo transfer became pregnant, while only 20.2 percent of the controls became pregnant. Dr. Friedler said the reason was probably because the clowning reduced the stress of what for many was many years of grueling IVF treatments, but this is not certain. It is also unclear what role, if any, stress may play in the success of IVF treatments.
Dr. Friedler, who is also trained in movement and mime, originally thought of the research after reading about laughter as an anti-stress mechanism. He realized that IVF patients are often extremely stressed, and wondered if relieving that stress through clowning at a crucial moment in the treatment could help.
Dr. Friedler and colleagues conclude that medical clowning may be a beneficial adjunct to IVF treatments and it deserves further investigation. Medical clowning is already used to good effect in hospitals in Europe, Australia, North America and Israel, particularly in children’s hospitals.
Dr. Friedler also pointed out that clowning is “one of the least hazardous interventions in our field.” Other methods of reducing stress could also be investigated. The findings are reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
More information: The effect of medical clowning on pregnancy rates after in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET), Shevach Friedler, M.D et al., Fertility and Sterility, published online 06 January 2011, doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.12.016

Sunday, 16 January, 2011

This is no light bill

Antilla is not just a landmark, a month after Mukesh Ambani moved in, it also generated the city’s biggest power bill for a residence: Rs 70 lakh(152,000 USD approx)

The asymmetrical stack of floors is lit-up like a jewellery box, illuminating the indigo sky, its opulence casting everything around it into a paler shade of their selves. Mukesh Ambani’s Godzilla-sized home, Antilla, has just notched up another headline. In the one month since he moved in with wife Nita and their three children, the tycoon has generated a power bill of Rs 70,69,488, the city’s highest residential electricity bill.

According to the bill for the month of September, made available to TOI, Antilla consumed 6,37,240 units of power. To put it in perspective an average Mumbai household equipped with all electronic amenities consumes 300 units per month. Ambani was in fact, as per BEST norm, given a discount of Rs 48,354 for prompt payment. The 70 lakh quoted earlier is minus this amount. Experts say the RIL boss’s tariff is roughly equivalent to the monthly power bill of 7,000 homes in Mumbai. The 27-storey Antilla, named after a mythical island, with its three helipads, 50-seater theatre, nine elevators, swimming pool and residential quarters takes up 37,000 square meters of space which is larger than the Palace of Versailles and according to the Guardian newspaper of the UK, its estimated value is pegged at Rs 4,567 crore.

“Extensive air-conditioning and elevated parking are big energy consumers,” says a BEST official not wishing to be quoted. Further, he adds, the building is lit up through the night, showcasing the bling. Though, a report in the Forbes magazine says that a four-storey hanging garden was especially built as an energy-saving device, to keep the interiors cool in summers.

Perhaps it is taking effect, for in October their power bill marginally came down to Rs 61,28461, for consumption of 5,96,800 power units. The family is among BEST’s high-tension consumer, a category created for bulk users. Save for a small part of the building which is designated as office space where commercial rates are applicable, the lower residential rates apply to the rest of the building. But even here it’s fortunate that Antilla is located where it is. Altamount Road falls under the BEST radar which has the lowest tariff among all power suppliers. Had brother Anil’s Reliance Energy been their power suppliers, Mukesh’s bill, as half of Mumbai can vouch, would have been further inflated.

Saturday, 15 January, 2011

Antilla, the world most expensive house to get fine china worth $1million

When you live in the world’s most expensive house, Antilla, you wouldn’t want to settle for anything but the best to fill it up. Hence when the lady of the house, Neeta Ambani, decided to go for crockery shopping, she planned to stock up her cabinets with 25,000 pieces of 106-year-old Japanese brand Noritake. It is estimated that the cost of this collection will total up to $1million. However the wife of Mukesh Ambani, world’s fourth richest man, decided to save up a bit here. She is rumored to head to Sri Lanka to collect her chinaware as Noritake stuff is 70-80% cheaper there than the rest of the world. Times of India reports, ‘A 50-piece dinner set with 22 carat gold/platinum trimmings could cost $300-500 in Sri Lanka while the same would be priced between $800 and $2,000 in India. Multiply that by 500 (to cover Nita Ambani's 25,000-piece order) and the price could have hit $1 million at the upper end in India.’ What do you think of her bargain-hunting move as lady of the ‘world’s most expensive’ house?:))

Friday, 14 January, 2011

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, hello nappies and sleepless nights

Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John was born weighing 7lb 15oz, to an unnamed woman in California.
There was speculation that his second name was a tribute to Sir Elton’s friendship with the late singer Michael Jackson and Levon is the title of a song from Sir Elton’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water.
The couple are believed to have paid an agency more than £100,000.
“We are overwhelmed with happiness and joy at this very special moment,” Sir Elton, 63, and Mr Furnish, 48, said in a joint statement. “Zachary is healthy and doing really well, and we are very proud and happy parents.”
It was not clear whether the birth was natural, induced or the result of an elective Caesarean. Mr Furnish, as the younger man by 15 years, is thought more likely to be the sperm donor.
He said it typically took 18 months for a couple to complete the process, and the total cost for a same-sex couple, including medical and legal expenses, was about $150,000, including a $20,000 to $30,000 fee for the surrogate mother.
Prospective parents usually meet the surrogate several times before the pregnancy, and provide the agency with photographs of the baby up to the age of 24 months.
Age was considered when prospective parents applied: “One might be a bit older but the other might be younger. We do worry about longevity but it averages out.”
Sir Elton and Mr Furnish’s civil partnership was formalised in 2005 and the singer had spoken of his desire to become a father, announcing last autumn that he had overcome his doubts about his age and wanted to adopt a 14-month-old orphan boy from Ukraine.
The plans were thwarted by Ukrainian laws which do not recognise same-sex civil partnerships. British law changed in April when it became legal for two men to have a child by a surrogate and for both men’s names to appear on the birth certificate as legal parents.
Surrogacy is still tightly regulated in Britain and couples often consider travelling abroad, where the rules are less strict.
Sir Elton’s announcement was greeted with concern from some groups. Josephine Quintavalle, founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: “Although I am sure Elton’s child will not want for anything, money is not everything. There is very much an age for being a parent and an age for being a grandparent.
“It would be very difficult to adopt a child at 63 but we seem to have a different approach to approving surrogacy parents.”
Andrea Williams, head of Christian Concern, said: “Children are not commodities. Just because you can buy or access something does not give you the right to do so.”
Elizabeth Hurley, the model and actress, was among the first to offer her best wishes, writing on the Twitter microblogging service: “Massive congratulations to David and Elton on having their beautiful son. Can’t wait for my first cuddle.”
Piers Morgan, who spoke to Sir Elton on ITV’s Life Stories, was caught out by the news, writing: “Feel such a fool – Sir Elton never even hinted he was pregnant during our interview.”
The singer Boy George commented: “What does it matter, gay or straight, if they make great loving parents?”

Thursday, 13 January, 2011

Britain's first gay surrogate parents to open surrogacy centre for same-sex couples

A unique centre for same-sex couples who want to have children is to open.

Danbury couple Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow will run the British Surrogacy Agency, which will be the first of its kind in the country.

The centre will operate from Chandlers Quay, Maldon, and will also have offices in San Francisco, where the couple spend a lot of time.

Local jobs will be created by the project, which is set to open in late January.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow said: “The centre will focus on all things surrogacy-related and will be the first centre of its kind in the UK.

“Its aim is to bring together intended parents with egg donors and surrogate, along with sperm donors, and offer legal advice from qualified legal professionals.

“I will be responsible for the assessment of intended patients and the assessments of potential egg donors and surrogates, and for helping with all legal documentation to allow each couple to bring home their baby to the UK.”

According to Mr Drewitt-Barlow, the company is already employing “several” local people, the number of whom will increase as it grows. It will have a web presence at which is set to launch this week.

The couple made history 11 years ago when they were named on the birth certificate as parents to twins, Saffron and Aspen, who were born to a surrogate mother – the first same-sex UK couple to do so.

They now have five children having fathered another set of twins, Jasper and Dallas, last year and have another son, Orlando, who is seven.

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow was pleased to hear Elton John and his partner David Furnish became parents over Christmas.

The couple’s baby boy was born to a surrogate mother in California, after they tried unsuccessfully to adopt an orphan in the Ukraine last year.

Mr Drewitt-Barlow said his and his partner’s parenthood has paved the way for other gay couples to become fathers.

He said: “Tony and I never set out to be trail-blazers in any way whatsoever. But we are happy many people over the years have followed in our footsteps.

“It’s even better to know celebrities like Elton have done the same thing now. It’s positive news for gay parenting.

“The more high-profile the people using surrogacy to start their families, the more mainstream it becomes.”

The substantial press coverage given to the pair over the years has raised awareness of the issue of surrogacy.

Barrie, 41, a businessman from Danbury, said: “Elton and David will not have the same issues as we did.

“Like any first, we have taken most of the criticism and the flak which will make it easier for anyone else taking this pathway to parenthood.

“There are many gay parents now in the UK thanks to the measures we took more than a decade ago.

“The awareness to gay parenting is 100 times higher now.

“Elton and David will be amazing parents. I just wish they would adopt me!”

He added society is now more tolerant towards gay parents, but “there is a long way to go”.

Wednesday, 12 January, 2011

Connecticut's landmark legal decision in establishing parentage for gay parents

In an unprecedented decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that two gay men could be recognized as legal parents on the birth certificate of their twins born through surrogacy. This is the first time in U.S. history that a state high court has acknowledged the parentage of two men, and it has created a new way by which persons may become legal parents.

“This is the single most important decision in the history of gay men having children through surrogacy,’ said John Weltman, Esq. (pictured), president of Circle Surrogacy, and author of an amicus brief in the case. “For a state high court to recognize the right of two gay men to be legal fathers of a child from the outset of the surrogacy process sets an incredible precedent. Furthermore, it positions Connecticut as one of the best states in the country for couples – gay and straight - to pursue gestational surrogacy with egg donation to create their family.”

Anthony Raftopol and Shawn Hargon, an American couple residing in Hungary, had a daughter through surrogacy, and were both recognized as her child’s legal father on the birth certificate. They then had twins in April 2008 through the same gestational surrogate and egg donor. When the couple petitioned the court to be named as the children’s legal parents, the court granted their petition. However, this time the Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Connecticut Department of Health, attempted to block the creation of the birth certificate, stating that parentage could only be established through conception, adoption or artificial insemination.

The Supreme Court rejected this claim, noting that according to the Department of Health’s argument, a child born to an infertile couple who had entered into a gestational agreement with egg and sperm donors and a gestational carrier would be born parentless.

Tuesday, 11 January, 2011

Mother to freeze eggs so her infertile daughter can one day give birth to her own brother or sister

A mother plans to freeze her eggs so that her infertile daughter may someday be able to use them to give birth to her own brother or sister.
Toddler Mackenzie Stephens was born with Turner Syndrome, a hereditary condition which means she is missing an X-chromosome.
The condition, which only affects girls, means two-year-old Mackenzie was born without ovaries, preventing her from ever having a child of her own naturally.
When Penny Jarvis, herself a mother of five, learnt that her daughter might never be able to have children of her own, she was devastated.
So Ms Jarvis, 25, has decided to freeze her own eggs so someday Mackenzie can use them for IVF and start a family.
However, technically, this means Mackenzie's future child would be both her offspring and her sibling.
Ms Jarvis described how she and partner Karl Stephens, 42, were distraught when the doctor broke the news about their daughter's condition.
The full-time mother from Sheffield, said: 'The doctor was talking about chromosomes and things and it was all a bit of a blur.
'The only word I heard at the time was 'infertility' and I just burst into tears. It's what most people want to be; a mum.
'She has three sisters and I couldn't imagine her growing up and watching them all have children while she couldn't have any of her own.
'Obviously, every mother wants to be a grandmother someday - that's what they dream of.
'As I was leaving the hospital, the consultant told me not to look up Turner Syndrome on the internet as it was full of worst-case scenarios.
'But, of course, I did it anyway. As soon as we were over the shock, Karl and I looked it up together as we had never even heard of it before and neither had any of our friends.
'While some of the stuff I was reading was scary - talk of congenital heart defects and diabetes - I discovered that egg donation was a possibility.'
Mackenzie has Turner Syndrome, which means she doesn't have ovaries
Turner Syndrome affects one in every 2,500 girls. It causes a number of mental and physical health issues, but most can be corrected or treated with surgery, drugs and psychological therapy.
The most common symptoms are swelling of the limbs, small stature and infertility. Mackenzie, who requires a daily dose of growth hormone, is also partially deaf and uses Makaton sign language to communicate as she suffers from speech problems.
She also has severe mood swings and sees a behavioural psychologist. It is hoped these will improve as she gets older.
Her mother dreams that someday she will fall in love and start a family of her own. When the time comes, Penny said, the option will be there for her to use her mother's eggs to have a child.
Mothers only have a short period in which they can make the donation to their daughters because, by the time they reach the age of 40, their eggs are likely to be of too poor quality to store.
However, medical advances in recent years have made it possible to store the eggs for longer periods.
The practice has been criticised by some ethicists who fear that it could cause the daughters psychological problems, while the resulting children could be confused about their relationship to their mother and grandmother.
But Penny, who has four other children; Jaymie-Leigh, five months, Morgan, six, and twins William and Abigail, three, said that any mother would do the same for their child.
She said: 'You could look at it as Mackenzie giving birth to her own brother or sister, but I choose not to see it like that.
'You do the best for your children and Mackenzie's daughter or son would be her own.
'It's a comfort to know that if she did have a child they would still have part of her own genetic make-up as well, so it would still be a part of her.
'I'd like to think her sisters would offer their eggs too. But if they didn't, at least the option would be there for her.
'A few people have told me they think it's a bit sick, but on the whole people have been supportive.
However, while Penny is confident she is doing the right thing for her daughter, some medical experts are less sure.
Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) said: 'One can fully understand the sadness for a mother to discover that her little daughter suffers from Turner Syndrome, but I do not think putting her own eggs in the freezer is either a practical or an ethical solution.'
She said there was a possibility that Turner Syndrome could be passed on genetically and therefore most doctors would not want to use the grandmother's eggs.
Ms Quintavalle added: 'Social and ethical objections are equally compelling.
'A child born in this way would be a half-sibling of the birth mother, her husband having fertilised the eggs of his mother-in-law.
'Psychologists are already talking about the trauma of genealogical bewilderment, as egg and sperm donation and surrogacy create more and more artificial conceptions.'
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority added: 'When providing treatment, it is important that account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment and of any other child who may be affected by the birth.'

Monday, 10 January, 2011

‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ designations changing on U.S. passport applications!

In a bid to forestall a backlash from congressional conservatives, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered the State Department to amend a bureaucratic change that would have eliminated the titles "mother" and "father" in favor of the gender-neutral term "parent" in passport applications and other documents.

The State Department said Saturday that Clinton had instructed the department to retain "mother" and "father" in passport applications as well as in a form known as a "Consular Report of Birth Abroad" that U.S. embassies use to document the birth of a child to expatriate Americans. It said the forms will now ask for the names of the child's "mother or parent 1" and "father or parent 2."

Gay and lesbian groups had applauded the initial change, which was announced with little fanfare in late December. But conservative groups criticized it as an attack on traditional marriage and family values.

Clinton has been a forceful advocate for gay rights and in 2009 moved to give gay diplomats, their partners and families the same benefits that heterosexual diplomats and their families receive. That step at the State Department preceded a similar government-wide move announced by the White House.

However, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday that Clinton had not been aware that the terms "mother" and "father" would be stricken from the consular birth reports and passport applications when she signed off on broader changes to the documents last year.

"She has directed that the relevant forms retain to the existing references to 'mother' and 'father' in addition to the designation 'parent,' " Crowley said. He said her decision would ensure that the documents are as inclusive and informative as possible.