This is different from surrogacy where a woman carries a pregnancy for the benefit of the infertile couple. In embryo adoption, the child that the couple carries is the child that they will parent.
"Outsourcing of embryo has caught the fancy of couples from the West who now see India as a destination where they can yield an embryo to child their barren wombs at lower costs," says Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Consultant -- Infertility & Reproductive Medicine, in New Delhi. She says both NRIs and foreigners are coming here for embryo adoption, though the number of foreigners is more.
They are not bothered if the gene pool changes. "A more affordable procedure than traditional means to void infertility, embryo adoption is far cheaper and a shorter affair than a complete invitro fertilisation cycle. The procedure involves the direct introduction of a new embryo from a healthy body to that of the infertile, which makes the practice non-surgical, and hence no risks are attached to it," she says.
"When IVF is performed, young women often produce many eggs, and therefore, many embryos. The supernumerary embryos can be stored. This is done by freezing them in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius. Parents often agree to donate the rest of their embryos to other infertile couples to help them to start a family, says Dr Aniruddha Malpani, a Mumbai-based consultant.
Unlike traditional adoption, the couple does not have to go through a legal process to adopt but through medical treatment. This means that the couple "biologically adopts" the embryo. He says adding embryo adoption also offers couples privacy and secrecy so that they do not need to worry about societal acceptance of their adopted child.
"In India, certain groups such as Christians and Muslims cannot adopt. Embryo adoption can be an extremely attractive option for them," says Dr Malpani. Dr Malpani notes that it is a legal and ethical treatment because the supernumerary frozen embryos are being used to create a family.
It's a form of "In-Utero" adoption. According to Indian law, the mother who gives birth is the legal mother (since her name appears on the birth certificate); and her husband is the legal father.
However, Dr Bajaj says there is no law in the country specifically on embryo adoption. Only broad guidelines on assisted reproductive technologies are available.