An audience of embryos

 Can music improve the chances of a positive pregnancy result for IVF conceptions? An audience of 380 embryos in Barcelona are the subjects of an experiment to determine the role of music in conception. Antonio Orozco treated his youngest audience ever (I assume) to a special concert, you can read the article here and watch the concert here:

I can’t wait to find out if this experiment increases the pregnancy results for these embies. My first thought on reading this is that the women who are hoping to gestate these embies would be more likely to benefit from a personal concert a little more than the embies themselves, if music lowers stress levels maybe it also increases the chances of conception.

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Filed under Antonio Orozco, embryo, music, Spain

The future is frozen….

Recent research reported in The Guardian today states that women wanting to conceive in their 40s will have a greater chance of success they use donor eggs from a younger woman or freeze their own eggs in their twenties or thirties to ensure success in their forties. I’m pretty sure this is not the first report suggesting that women should freeze their eggs in their twenties or thirties if they think they may want to conceive in their later thirties or forties. You can read the report here. Perhaps this is the future of reproduction? Women and men freezing their gametes in the twenties, getting on with careers and setting up a home in the thirties and starting a family with their frozen gametes in their forties….. why not? According to Richard Dawkin’s reproducing “later in life” leads to a longer life. Perhaps biotechnologies mastery of reproduction is less dystopian and more utopian – if you want a long life, freeze your gametes…?

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Filed under embryo, longevity, richard dawkins

Celebrity custody battle over cryo preserved embryos

 Our understanding of what it is to be a person encompasses the potential beginnings of becoming a person. The human embryo is regulated according to it’s potential to become a person and is therefore legally protected. How the embryo can be used is limited (with variations, depending on the country). An article in ‘The Glow’ today discusses ‘Modern Family’ actor Sophia Vergara custody battle with her ex-husband over their cryo-preserved embryos:

According to Genea‘s Fertility Specialist, Dr Devora Lieberman, there are a few options you can consider.“The embryo can be transferred into the woman, if her ex-partner consents, with the hope of making a baby,” she explains.”Otherwise, the embryos can be discarded, donated to research or, in some clinics, they can be donated to other couples trying to have a baby.”

The final (theoretical) option, depending on the clinic, is for the embryos to be saved for their stem cells in case an existing child may need them in their future:

There is another option, but Dr Lieberman says it’s theoretical at this stage: “Embryos could be kept as a potential source of stem cells (if a child needed a stem cell transplant in the future) but nobody’s done it yet. It comes down to what an embryo represents ethically, so it’s theoretical at this point.”

A human embryo holds a fascinating potentiality; to become life, to save a (sibling?) life, to extend kinship groups… as well as the potential to become waste and all the ethical, moral and legal thought emerging apace with bio-medical technologies and knowledge. This example (you can read the full article here) is interesting because it is basically a battle over an imagined future, or more exactly, a potential future.

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Filed under embryo

New surrogacy route: Chinese couples travelling to the USA for surrogacy

china USA surrogacyCheck out this article  discussing Chinese couples who travel to the USA for surrogacy. This is an interesting addition to the increasingly complex network of transnational commercial surrogacy routes. In this case, the legal status of commercial surrogacy in the USA and trust in a well established system are important factors drawing IPs from China to the US, and US citizenship for children born via a surrogate mother in the US is an added bonus. It is interesting that the IPs highlighted in this article have also become entrepreneurs of this novel connection between China and the USA. Jiang, like other IPs through transnational surrogacy, acts a facilitator between surrogacy agencies in one country, in this case the US and IPs in his home country, in this case China:

He now consults with eight surrogacy agencies, connecting them with Chinese clients, the vast majority of whom suffer from infertility, Jiang says. Others clients have included gay men and heterosexual couples barred from having a second child in China.

Transnational commercial surrogacy seems to be a new space for entrepreneurship: new forms of facilitation, agencies, consultants, ‘match making’…. in all of this surrogate mothers are central, yet make the least profit (or even find themselves out of pocket in domestic altruistic surrogacy arrangements).

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Filed under altruistic surrogacy, China, citizenship, commercial surrogacy, surrogacy consultants, surrogacy facilitators, USA

Cross cultural research into family life

I drafted this post in 2012 and somehow never got around to posting it. This is a really interesting study into middle-class life in the USA. Margaret Mead (the most amazing Anthropologist ever, in my opinion) was the pioneer of this form of cross-cultural kinship study with a focus on identifying the ideologies of motherhood and parenthood. I love the interdisciplinary approach to this study:

How kids develop moral responsibility is an area of focus for the researchers. Dr. Ochs, who began her career in far-off regions of the world studying the concept of “baby talk,” noticed that American children seemed relatively helpless compared with those in other cultures she and colleagues had observed.

You can read more about the study here.

And check out the one of the pioneering ethnographic films on this subject here  (did I mention that Mead is amazing?).

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Filed under childhood, cross cultural, family, family life, Margaret Mead, parents

“We’re all in this together”

Finland has the lowest infant morality rate in the world thanks to this simple care package. New parents in Finland are given a box filled with everything their baby will need during their first year. Apart from the practical utility of this gift from the government, new parents feel that they are part of something, that they are not alone in their new role as parents. Perhaps it is the combination of that care package and the feeling of social cohesion this brings that had lead to Finland’s low infant mortality.

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Filed under baby box, care package, Finalnd, infant mortality, supporting new parents

Baby Gammy

Over the last week or so I have been reading the flurry of articles reporting on baby Gammy and waiting for the media flurry to settle. It does not seem to be settling, instead the stories of surrogacy in Thailand are becoming increasingly more horrifying by the day. First we learnt that an Australian couple had abandoned one of their twins because he was born with Down’s syndrome, but the couple in question reportedly claimed not to know that they had a son, then we learnt that the father is a child sex offender. Could it get any worse? Finally, the couple spoke out publicly in an interview on 60 minutes. I think for many, this interview raised more concerns for the little girl in the couple’s care. And then, there is the story of the 24 year old Japanese business man who has fathered more than a dozen babies through different surrogacy clinics in Thailand. The knee jerk reaction to these extreme and disturbing stories is that commercial surrogacy should be banned. But would this help? I believe banning commercial surrogacy overseas will not stop IPs from taking this route. It is, after all, their last option in what is often a long journey into parenthood. During the course of my research I found that most of the IPs I spoke with were willing to pursue surrogacy at all costs, and despite changes to the law in NSW (effective in 2011) extending the ban on commercial surrogacy to overseas. What we need here is regulation, regulation, regulation. Should I say it again? Regulation. We need to offer IPs counselling, and ensure that surrogates are also receiving counselling. We need to ensure that the clinics and other go-betweens are following ethical guidelines. I could go on and on. But the point is, banning surrogacy, or commercial surrogacy, will push these arrangements underground. Regulation will enable greater visibility, appropriate support for all those involved, and decrease the likelihood of such extreme cases occurring.


Filed under abandonment, Baby Gammy, commercial surrogacy, Gammy, IPs, regulation, surrogacy Thailand, Thailand

A push for regulation of surrogacy in India as voting time nears

ImageIndian ARTs (assisted reproductive technology) bill has been in draft form since 2010. While I was living in India academics and women’s rights groups explained that the bill could be passed “any day” that there was no way of knowing when the billed passed. Three years down the track the bill is still in draft form, but according to this article (here) voting may make the difference. It seems that there is no way of knowing when it will happen but there remains hope that it will happen.

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Filed under draft ARTs bill 2010, Indian ARTs bill, regulation, Surrogacy India, voting

Some of the top clinics in Mumbai under investigation

mumbaiAccording to an article in today’s Mumbai Mirror (you can read it here) some of the top IVF clinics offering surrogacy arrangements to foreigners in Mumbai are under investigation. Two gynaecologists representing the Maharashtra Medical Council will be investigating surrogacy practices at Corian, Rotunda and Lilivati’s IVF clinics. According to the Foreigners Reginal Registration Office, the clinics have been selling surrogacy to foreigners who visit India on a tourist visa. This is a breach of the Union Home Ministry’s December 2012 ruling that only married couples could apply for a medical visa for commercial surrogacy arrangements in India and gay couples and singles would be prohibited from engaging in surrogacy arrangements in India. Watch this space – the report is due in two weeks time.

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Filed under India, investigation, law, Mumbai, surrogacy clinic, Surrogacy India

Georgia changing law on compensated surrogacy

imagesAccording to this news report today, Georgia may be joining the UK and Australia with a ban on commercial surrogacy arrangements:

But as surrogacy reportedly thrives, Georgian experts and officials have become increasingly concerned about a lack of oversight. With help from the United Nations Population Fund, authorities are now starting to look at other countries’ policies on surrogacy and consider making changes to Georgia’s current practices. “There is a common agreement that the issue of surrogacy needs to be better regulated, and legislative, bioethical, social and economic factors need to be considered,” explained Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Issues Mariam Jashi.

From a market standpoint, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that surrogacy is a lucrative sector in a country where well-paying jobs are scarce. “We have to recruit [surrogates] all the time, as the demand is much higher than we can actually meet,” noted Tamara Barkalaia, head of operations at New Life, one of seven surrogacy agencies in Tbilisi. In 2013, New Life handled 41 deliveries, she said.

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Filed under commercial surrogacy, Georgia, United Nations