Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No sex please, but we want babies

" Busy Men Bank Sperm For Wives
Charles Assisi | Times of India, 29 April 2006

Mumbai: There’s a hypothesis, apocryphal perhaps, that students of economics like to relate with great relish. Because entertainment options are limited in poorer countries like India, men and women end up making love. The happy by-product includes babies. The answer, therefore, to tackling population explosion in countries like India includes building more entertainment options.
At a south Mumbai infertility clinic though, it is fairly obvious the hypothesis dates back to an India in the socialist past. “I keep telling my patients making babies in the bedroom is more fun,” says Dr Anirudha Malpani. “But they don’t have the time,” he rues. Having said that, a pregnant pause envelopes his fifth floor office in a swank high rise. His usually articulate wife and co-practitioner Dr Anjali Malpani, lost in thought, looks away at a toy stork that resides smugly on the table.
Roughly, of every 10 people that visit their infertility clinic hoping the metaphorical stork will eventually visit them, four don’t really need to. The stork would, if only they could come around to making love. But making love takes time. And time, not surprisingly, is the first casualty when an economy starts to boom. People work harder and don’t need to be entertained anymore.
“I’d think the problem is most acute with senior software and management professionals,” Anjali points out. Then there are folks in the media like journalists and ad film makers documenting the boom. They keep unkind hours and come home to an exasperated wife who’s already called it a day.
Dr Kevin Quadros, a gynaecologist who practices at a leading hospitals in Mumbai like Holy Spirit and Hiranandani, agrees, but not quite. “In my experience, people seeking help aren’t restricted to any single social class. You’d be surprised at the numbers that come to me for assistance.”
Adds an andrologist who practices at Hinduja Hospital, “I’ve come across cases where people are so busy they’ve stopped enjoying sex, but want babies. What else do they do but go to a sperm bank?”
These are the kind of fertile folks, the good doctors say, who are now seeking assisted reproduction. Their problem is a fairly straightforward one. In the rare event that these folks manage to spend time together, the chances of the wife passing through a fertile period is rarer still. Which is why, they seek out science to help make babies for them. It isn’t fun. But what the hell!
So the busy men troop in with their wives into sperm banks. Out here, they pour their seeds into test tubes. No rocket science there. The unlettered call it masturbation. Doctors politely call it manipulation. Lab technologists quietly take over and freeze the motile vials of genetic material into cryogenic chambers. The sperm waits there, patiently, until the lady in the relationship starts to ovulate and comes back to be inseminated artificially.
These dramatic changes are not a function of changes in the male lifestyle alone. Single women in their early 20s are now walking into clinics like theirs to bank the eggs they produce. The argument is a simple one. These women don’t intend to have babies for a long time—perhaps until their late 30s or early 40s when hopefully, their careers will be on solid ground. For better or worse, the best eggs a woman produces are when she is younger. As she grows older, the quality of the eggs she produces are increasingly suspect.
To all of this, add the emergence of alternative lifestyles. Single women who refuse to get involved with a man, but want to raise a child they can call their own. Or for that matter, lesbian couples dealing with intense maternity pangs. For them the options are limited—head to a sperm bank and buy pre-tested vials of sperm uncontaminated by sexually transmitted diseases or obvious genetic defects. They can choose the profile of men whose sperm they want. Height, weight, body type, and some such assorted variables.
Elsewhere in the world, like the US, things are different—a little more evolved if you will. On sites operated by sperm banks like the FairFax Cryo Bank, women can shop online for sperm. They are allowed to filter out undesired donors on the back of variables like ethnicity, whether the sperm owner has straight hair or wavy, blue eyes or brown, and so on. Incidentally, sperm originating from a doctorate’s testicles command a premium. At the very least, $60 for a potent vial.
“Do gay men visit you to have a baby?”
“Yes, they do. But the logistics of finding a surrogate mother is difficult. So I send them back,” says Anirudha. “Aren’t there any moral issues that trouble you?” “My Catholic sensibilities don’t allow me to practice assisted reproduction. So I send them to other practitioners,” says Kevin. “What else do you caution patients about Anirudha?” “Once you’ve had a baby, there is a no-returns policy.”
This is an interesting article on how people use modern technology to change their lifestyles.

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