A surrogate mother from Hyderabad, India, gave birth to a baby girl on 29th October Saturday night in the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, making it perhaps the first recorded birth of its kind in Bhutan.
The baby will be handed over to the real parents by 5th November. They are from the United States of America.
The surrogate mother, 25, who had come as an Indian tourist was on seven day tour in Bhutan along with another 23 year old woman Indian tourist, her attendant.
The surrogate mother claimed that her due date was on 15th November and they planned their tour accordingly.
The attendant said they came to Bhutan as the real parents wanted them to visit the Punakha Dzong once before her delivery. She said, “We were supposed to leave for India on October 27 but due to labour pains we couldn’t and now we are waiting for the real parents so that we can go back after handing over the baby.”
She said that the delivery was normal and doctors and health workers in Bhutan were helpful.
“Before the delivery I never told the hospital about the surrogate baby but after delivery I shared everything with the hospital,” the mother said in Hindi.
She also said that, people around were curious to know about the surrogacy. The surrogate mother was taken for physical check-up and even questioned if she was forced to get pregnant or if she was under any kind of torture or pressure.
“The surrogate mother was supposed to give birth in Mumbai where the American couple were going to collect the baby but now the couple will have to come to Bhutan to get their baby,” the attendant said.
The surrogate mother works as a maid and is a divorcee with an eight year old son. She accepted to become a surrogate mother due to economic considerations.
The surrogate originally donated her eggs in Mumbai, India, where she got Rs.10,000 for a donation every month. However, the money was not sufficient for her to sustain herself and thereafter she asked a surrogate agent for help.
She was put in a contact with a couple from the US who wanted to have a surrogate baby. Thereafter the 25 years old maid decided to be their surrogate mother.
The US couple are paying Rs.550,000 including the expenses for the surrogacy according to the surrogate mother. She was paid 90 percent of the amount in advance while 10 percent of the amount will be paid after handing over the baby.
The US couple did not have their own baby as the wife could not get pregnant due to some medical issues and therefore, the husband donated his sperm while an Italian woman donated her egg. The attendant said that, “After 14 days of inducing the embryo into the surrogate mother, she was found positive and has now given birth to a baby girl, whom she will be handing over to the US parents.”
The father who flew into country from USA on 4th November to get the baby will be leaving back with the baby on 5th November. He will take the baby exactly 24 hours of his arrival in the country as it is vital for the baby to be with the birth mother for some period of time.
Health official said that, there are no laws drafted on surrogacy in Bhutan leaving it in a grey area of whether it is legal or illegal to have surrogacy birth in the country. Moreover, this is a unique case of both the surrogate mother and the intended parents being foreign citizens.
The health official said, “I have also contacted NCWC on this as they are the right office for children and women but they were saying that no legal provision was put in place regarding surrogacy”.
Surrogacy is of two types. Full surrogacy also known as Host or Gestational surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo created using either, the eggs and sperm of the intended parents, a donated egg fertilised with sperm from the intended father or an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm. The above case is that of a full surrogacy.
Partial surrogacy also known Straight or Traditional surrogacy involves the sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate. Here fertilisation is usually done by artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination.
The couple from the US is self-employed, doing private business.
However, while the surrogate mother gave the story of seeing Punakha Dzong, this first known surrogate birth in Bhutan comes on the back of India getting tough on commercial surrogacy. India, so far has been the world’s leading country for commercial surrogacy mainly on account of economically deprived women looking to make extra income and the overall low cost for foreigners in getting surrogate mothers.
However, India is coming up with a new law will allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners and that too with strict conditions. In 2015 the Indian Council of Medical Research banned foreign couples from using surrogacy services in India.
If Bhutan does not take adequate care it could be open to a floodgate of undeclared international surrogacy cases especially with a competent and free medical system.