In north India, there is a much-talked about in-vitro fertilization clinic specializing in fertility treatments for women over the age of 50.
While those treatments have become more commonplace in different parts of the world, they are a sensitive topic in India, where women are often defined in terms of their ability to be a wife and mother. Over the past decade, IVF clinics have emerged by tens of thousands around the country.
Meet Dr. Bishnoi, IVF Doctor For Grandmothers
An Associated Press report centers on Dr. Anurag Bishnoi, who leads the National Fertility and Test Tube Baby Centre in the town of Hisar. His website is filled with images of patients carrying babies at ages that most other doctors would likely find inexcusable: 50s, 60s, and at least two patients giving birth at 70.
Bishnoi has been called many names, but to Manjeet Kaur he is a lifesaver. Kaur, after four decades of being childless, gave birth to baby at age 58 with the doctor’s help.
“You have no idea how I suffered. The pain I lived with. I used to work all day, but my nights were spent in tears,” she said, recalling trying IVF twice in her 40s at two separate clinics before finding success under Bishnoi’s watch.
“Doctor sahib was like a god to us,” she added.
IVF treatments in India cost relatively low, although families usually have to pay out of their own pockets. A single cycle of IVF at Dr. Bishnoi’s clinic is priced at about $1,700, versus the estimated $12,000 in the United States.
Bishnoi likened the treatment costs to getting a buffalo, referencing the farming background of many of his patients.
Word Of Caution From Other Experts
Bishnoi has been accused of making money off desperate, aged women who want their last chance at childbearing.
Dr. Hrishikesh Pai, heading a group of Indian gynecologists and obstetricians, dubbed him a “rogue doctor” for supposedly ignoring the principles that guide fertility specialists.
Dr. Narendra Malhotra of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction put it simply: “We don’t endorse making mothers out of grandmothers.” He highlighted the risks for the age group, such as their bodies not designed for childbearing once they hit 50.
The country’s Indian Medical Council sets 45 years old as the recommended cut-off for childbearing, while most other guidelines in the world set the limit at 45 to 50 for treatments such as IVF.
Once in a while, someone like a 64-year-old woman from Burgos, Spain, successfully gives birth to a healthy baby (twins in the Spanish woman’s case).
According to Bishnoi, he is careful in choosing who to recommend for pregnancy after a series of medical tests. Age, he asserted, doesn’t matter as long as the woman is of sound physical, emotional, and financial status.
Bishnoi also claimed to never having a patient die.
Recently, a 100-year-old fertility technique that involves flushing fallopian tubes with water or iodized poppy seed oil made headlines for helping get women pregnant without IVF.
The IVF alternative is known as hysterosalpingography or HSG, and it involves a dye test conducted under X-ray, which is used to examine a woman's fallopian tubes and uterus. The pregnancy rate in infertile females who underwent the HSG test was seen to drastically improve in the last century.