Last month at the Ruby Hall Clinic here, a 60-year-old became a surrogate mother when she gave birth to twins. She had offered to be a surrogate for her US-based daughter, whose uterus had been removed due to genital cancer.
Another success story is of French couple Monique and Philippe Benat-Aissi who chose the IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) centre at Ruby Hall to fulfil their dream of having a baby. They could not conceive for a long time and grew tired of waiting for appointments with doctors treating infertility in Europe.
Last month Monique delivered twins in China where Phillipe is posted as an automotive engineer with a French company. The Benat-Aissis are among the umpteen foreign couples who visit India for IVF treatment.
At Pune's Ruby Hall Clinic, IVF procedures for foreign couples have become a day-to-day affair.
Monique says she was desperate to have a baby. "I am 38 years old and my husband is 41. It is so tiresome to wait for an appointment with a doctor in Europe. The twins could not have come at a more opportune time. The treatment cost abroad is also 9-10 times more than in India," says Monique who is studying international shipping.
Says Sunita Tandulwadkar, chief of the IVF Endoscopy Centre, Ruby Hall Clinic: "Twenty percent of my patients are either NRIs or foreign nationals. The trend is increasing.
"Couples from abroad prefer to come here for IVF treatment as we are constantly upgrading our technology and knowledge in reproductive medicine. Also the cost of IVF treatment in India is lower and does not carry much waiting period."
What makes India an ideal destination for treating infertility related issues?
First and foremost is the cost factor. A test tube baby in India can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000. The same procedure in the US can range from $10,000 to $20,000 given that the insurance companies do not cover the cost.
Second is the waiting period. In most developed countries seeking physician appointments is a challenging task. It takes a minimum of six to eight months for couples to start the procedure from the day they decide to have a test tube baby. However, in India, within a month of arriving, couples are already into the process of conception of an embryo.
Third is the communication between doctor and patient. Indian hospitals provide complete transparency throughout the procedure.
Another reason for foreign couples to opt for India to treat infertility is the stringent rules for the procedure in their mother country. For instance, in Italy only three eggs can be used for fertilisation at one go and the remaining have to be frozen, while in Australia intra-uterine insemination (IUI) is not allowed.
"In some cases of couples from abroad, the husband's semen can be frozen. This avoids the husband's long stay in India and the wife alone can remain in India for the treatment," informed Tandulwadkar.
The success of a fertility treatment depends a lot on the skill of an embryologist. And not very many doctors tend to specialise in this field. There are only a handful of embryologists in the country.
Sonal Vaidya, embryologist, Ruby Hall Clinic, explains: "We have been successful in the usage of surplus embryos obtained in the IVF/ICSI cycle using our advanced Cryoplaner-10 computerised controlled freezer. These frozen embryos can be used in subsequent cycles giving us better cumulative pregnancy rates."
ICSI is short for Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection, a micro-injection that is the most cost effective treatment for male infertility.
The Cryoplaner-10 computerised controlled freezer also helps to freeze the embryos of hyper-stimulated women and then transfer them into the natural cycle, resulting in increased carry-home-baby rate.
"We have frozen embryos of women who are pregnant in the very first cycle. These women can come back to us after two or three years as per their wish and can have another baby through frozen embryo transfer," Tandulwadkar said.
Given the growing traffic in medical tourism, lots of companies are marketing Indian hospitals on the web. But, according to Tandulwadkar, word of mouth and their success rate are what work and of course their website provides all the information about the kind of facilities they offer.