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27.1.11

Young girls in their early 20s —- college students and working professionals — are turning to egg donor programmes (aiding assisted pregnancies) — to make a quick buck which would help them buy a designer bag or pay for an exotic weekend get away.
    In an alarming trend, an increasing number of youngsters in the city are repeatedly engaging themselves in these two-week programmes for lure of lucre. Each sitting reportedly makes the donor richer by Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000.
    Blame it on aspirational lifestyles.
    Dr Kamini A Rao, a leading gynaecologist in the city, who heads the Assisted Conception Centre in Bangalore, said she runs into at least one 'young adult' every week who is looking to donate eggs for some additional pocket money.
    Interestingly, most of these young donors are from working class backgrounds, often with both parents in salaried jobs. They may have comfortable lifestyles, but it is clearly not enough. One of the requirements of the programme is that the donor is above the age of 21, because of which parental consent isn't needed. Unlike with renting of the womb, a trend that is growing in popularity in the lower middle class with the surrogate mother gaining up to Rs 2 lakh, there are few physical giveaways in donating eggs.

Dr Kamini explained, "These girls are well read and articulate, they know how the system works. They don't come to me or my institution directly, they come through agencies. Some of them drop out once they realise that the procedure lasts two weeks and it might mean missing college or work or at the very least rearranging their time. Some of them want to be on these programmes more than once or twice. This is not a business. It raises serious moral and ethical questions. I counsel girls who come forward to donate, but that is all I can do. I cannot take decisions for them."
    Hema Gopalan, 22, training
to be a beautician, is completing her Bachelors of Arts Degree through correspondence. She needed money urgently for, among other things, to give her wardrobe a new look. She first read about the egg donor programme on internet a couple of years ago and then more recently in a newspaper article. Hema had just one question to ask during the extensive counselling sessions she had to undergo before being confirmed on the programme. "Do I get paid per egg?"
    Anything between eight and twelve eggs are retrieved from the donor in each sitting and payment is made for the whole exercise.
REPERCUSSIONS LIKELY
Dr Usha M R, a Bangalorebased gynaecologist, picked ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) as a fallout from some forms of fertility treatments. She explained that the repercussions of repeatedly engaging in donor activities could prove costly, given that any outside interference on the natural cycle came with side affects like abdominal bloating, nausea, weight gain and mood swings.

GROWING NUMBERS
Even though the young adult donor constitutes only 10% of the market, the numbers are growing and the ratios quick changing. In the last three years, doctors aver that the increase in the number of youngsters in these programmes has grown almost five times.
    With infertility earmarked as one of the biggest problems that women face today, with 10% to 15% of the female population battling it, the dependence on donor programmes is growing by the day. However, almost 60% of the donors are older women, 30-plus, married, with families and from stable backgrounds: Requirements that doctors like Kamini Rao swear by.

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