Tag Archives: Multiple Pregnancy

Clients of Surrogacy Agency Missing Millions of Dollars After Company Suddenly Closes

The Web site was impressive. An agency called SurroGenesis listed 60 locations worldwide where infertile couples and individuals could find women willing, for a fee, to serve as gestational surrogates. Aspiring parents put up tens of thousands of dollars hoping the agency could help them start families.

Today, SurroGenesis’ main office, in Modesto, Calif., is closed. So is an escrow company, Michael Charles Independent Financial Holding Group, that was supposed to be safeguarding the clients’ money. It turns out that many SurroGenesis locations were post-office boxes. An FBI spokesman, Steve Dupre, said the agency was evaluating the case but had not opened an investigation.

U.S. and international clients of SurroGenesis are missing as much as $2 million after the company suddenly shut down without explanation, according to lawyers familiar with the case, the New York Times reports.

Money gone

SurroGenesis told clients March 13 via e-mail that their money was gone. The shutdown affected about 70 people, some of whom had paid as much as $90,000 for promised gestational surrogacy services. “Many of them have lost their savings, and any chance of having a family is completely destroyed,” said Andrew Vorzimer, a lawyer working with those affected. “We’ve got couples in the midst of pregnancies with no ability to pay the surrogate, or even make insurance payments, which have gone unpaid.”

On the heels of the birth in January of octuplets, conceived by in vitro fertilization to a single California woman who has six other children, the case highlights the lack of oversight in the business of creating babies. There is no licensing requirement for egg-donor and surrogacy companies.

According to the Times, several couples learned about SurroGenesis on the Internet. As part of the agreement for surrogacy services, parents were instructed to deposit money to cover costs in an escrow account. SurroGenesis in a March 13 e-mail told clients that their money was gone and advised them to hire lawyers. The e-mail also said that clients should contact the Modesto Police Department because the escrow company that was supposed to be holding clients’ money — the Michael Charles Independent Financial Holding Group — was no longer paying its bills. California records show that SurroGenesis founder Tonya Collins is also listed as the registered agent for the Michael Charles group, even though it “was supposed to be an independent and bonded escrow company,” according to the Times. FBI spokesperson Steve Dupre said the agency is evaluating the case but has not launched an official investigation. Andrew Vorzimer, a lawyer working with some of the clients, said, “Many of them have lost their savings, and any chance of having a family is completely destroyed.” He added, “We’ve got couples in the midst of pregnancies with no ability to pay the surrogate, or even make insurance payments, which have gone unpaid.” According to the Times, Vorzimer said there is one surrogate carrying twins for a couple who lost more than $50,000. The surrogate is on bed rest, but the couple now is unable to reimburse her for lost wages.

Sources: New York Times, 3/21/2009

Seattle Times, 3/22/2009

Reproductive Health News, 3/24/2009


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Multiple joys: Three gynecologists — and moms — are personal experts on twins and triplets

Talk about multitasking. Of the eight female obstetrician-gynecologists who deliver babies at Sutter Roseville Medical Center in Roseville, California, three are the mothers of multiples.


Dr. Amy Riley’s triplets, Julia, Vivian and Alec are now four years old. Dr. Anna Almonte’s twin daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth, are 6. And Dr. Jackie Ho gave birth to the babies of the group – twins Marissa and Ellie Ow – on May 16.

Even more impressive, all three doctors have older children as well. Clearly, they’re well versed in the art of juggling the demands of home and family and a busy career.


“People will say, ‘I can’t imagine,’ ” Riley says. “But I can’t imagine anything else.”

For their patients, they set an encouraging example. Riley, Almonte and Ho understand the reassurance implicit in their care of nervous expectant mothers overwhelmed with the idea of carrying, delivering and raising multiples.

“I’m very encouraging about twins,” says Almonte, 37, who immigrated from Ukraine a dozen years ago. “I always say, ‘It’s double trouble, but it’s a double joy.’ “


According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, the twin birth rate – more than 32 per 1,000 births – has increased 42 percent since 1990 and 70 percent since 1980, in large part the result of delayed childbearing. Beginning in their 30s, women are more likely to conceive twins naturally – and even more so when fertility treatments are involved.


In contrast, the birth rate for triplets and other multiples has declined slightly in recent years, the CDC says, following American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommendations limiting the number of embryos transferred during fertility procedures.


“When I was pregnant with my twins, I had four other couples at the same time in my practice carrying twins,” says Ho, 39, herself a twin. See? Twins, once a relative rarity, seem like they’re everywhere these days. Scratch the surface of most elementary schools and you’ll find a few sets of multiples.


And as Cindy Camarena, president of a California Moms of Multiples club, likes to say, when people see twins, they smile. Something about doubled- and even tripled-up siblings, whether identical or fraternal, still delights us.


For the record, Ho and Almonte both conceived their twin daughters the old-fashioned way, without the assistance of reproductive technology. “It was nothing but nature,” says Almonte.


On the other hand, when Riley and her husband, Damon, decided it was time to expand their family beyond their first daughter, Brenna, now 10, they struggled for several years. “Then one cycle with in-vitro fertilization, and there were three more kids,” says Amy Riley, who lives in Roseville. “It was like winning the lottery after four years of infertility.”


Carrying multiple babies comes with multiple risks, including preterm labor and toxemia. As expectant ob-gyns, the doctors knew more about those risks than most pregnant women.


“I think knowledge is always good,” says Ho, whose oldest daughter, Caroline, is 8. “When I found out I was having twins, I was very happy but at the same time worried about potential complications. “I was as excited as I could be, but I thought, ‘Am I going to end up having a C-section? Am I going to be able to take them home with me from the hospital, or will I have to leave them in the (neonatal intensive care unit)?’ “The extra knowledge caused extra concerns. But I also knew what to watch out for.”


And what do the twins and triplets watch out for? Often as not, each other.

“When there are three,” says Riley, “they learn to be more patient than other kids are. They all yell, ‘Mom,’ at the same time, but there’s only one mom. So they help each other out. And they’re very good at sharing.” “You teach your kids to be independent,” Almonte says. “They entertain each other.” Riley nods. “We had to constantly entertain our older daughter,” she says. “But these guys entertain each other.”


Meanwhile, Ho and her husband, Dr. Randy Ow, an ear, nose and throat specialist, make a point of devoting one night each week to their oldest daughter so she won’t feel overlooked in their newly twin-centered Roseville, Calif., household. “Life is good,” Ho says. “I have a very understanding husband. I’m still trying to be there as much as I can for my patients. When I leave work, I’m 100 percent with my kids. They keep us very busy, nonstop.

“We’re so happy with them.”


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France: Woman, 59, is oldest mother of triplets

A 59-year-old Frenchwoman has given birth by Caesarian section to two boys and a girl, who are in good health, the Paris hospital treating her said on Monday last.

“Everything went smoothly,” said a spokesman at Cochin hospital where the triplets were born overnight Saturday.

The woman, of Vietnamese origin, is thought to have resorted to a private Vietnamese clinic willing to overlook the age limit for egg donation and in vitro fertilisation (IVF), set at 45 in Vietnam, according to press reports.

Egg donations are authorised in France but most fertility clinics here set a maximum age limit of 42 for would-be mothers.

But nothing prevents couples from seeking fertility treatment abroad and in 2001 a 62-year-old Frenchwoman gave birth to a child conceived through IVF, in the Riviera town of Frejus.

Earlier this year, an Indian woman said to be 70 years old gave birth to twins after receiving IVF treatment.

The baby girl weighed in at 2.42 kilograms (5.34 pounds) as did one brother, while the second boy weighed 2.32 kilograms.

The birth of triplets by a mother in her late 50s was unprecedented in France and possibly a world first.

But the news raised eyebrows among French health professionals concerned that science was pushing the limits of motherhood too far.

“Having children at that age is dangerous in terms of child development,” said child psychiatrist Nicole Garret-Gloanec.

Women of child-bearing age are able to “draw the link between their own childhood and their baby,” she said.

This case raises questions as to “how you can help a child grow, in educational terms and development,” said Dominique Ratia-Armangol, president of the national association of early childhood psychologists.

She said a child born to an older woman can become confused about the role of grandmother and mother.

Garret-Gloanec suggested that the mother’s late-in-life desire to have children was “a denial of ageing and of death.”

“It’s unhealthy, to project onto children your own anxieties about death,” she said.


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Smoking damages female fertility

Heavy smoking may reduce a woman’s fertility by directly affecting the uterus, the results of a new study indicate.

According to a team of European researchers, it has long been known that smoking affects female fertility. However this is believed to be the first study to show that the habit actually damages the lining of the uterus, making it less receptive and reducing the chances that an embryo will implant itself in the wall of the womb.

The study looked at the impact of women who had received donated oocytes – the cells from which eggs develop. According to the researchers, this situation allows the most objective assessment of the role of the uterus in the outcome of IVF (in vitro fertilisation).

 They looked at IVF treatments carried out at a clinic between early 2002 and June 2005 – 741 of these were in non-heavy smokers (less than 10 cigarettes a day) and 44 were in heavy smokers (over 10 a day). None of the women’s partners were smokers and none of the oocyte donors were heavy smokers.

The researchers found that ‘heavy smokers have a much lower chance of achieving pregnancy’. However in those who did become pregnant, the multiple pregnancy rate was higher.

“The fact that we see this result in a situation in which the oocytes were donated by other women demonstrates that cigarette smoking negatively affects the receptiveness of the uterus independently of its effect on ovarian function and this is a new finding”, explained lead researcher, Dr Sergio Soares.

He suggests that heavy smoking ‘disrupts the stability of cells in the lining of the uterus differently in some women or triggers a response in the embryo itself’.

“This could result in a reduced general pregnancy rate overall, but an increased chance of multiple pregnancy in those who do become pregnant”, he explained.

He added that while more research is needed in this area, patients who are heavy smokers should be told that even if fertilisation takes place, they have ‘less chance of achieving a successful pregnancy, whether they are trying to conceive naturally or through IVF’.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd


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Delaying motherhood and defying nature

The average age of women seeking fertility help in Australia has increased from 35.2 years old in 2002 to 35.6 years old in 2006, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The report showed that record numbers of women over 40 were undergoing fertility treatment – rising from 14.3 per cent in 2002 to 16.2 per cent in 2006 – despite those over 45 having only a two per cent chance of becoming pregnant.

The figures may echo a growing trend in the number of couples delaying parenthood, says Peter Illingworth, a Sydney- based doctor and president of the Fertility Society of Australia .’The vast majority of couples we see who are over 40, for example, have only just met’, he told the Bloomberg Press. ‘It’s not that they have made a conscious decision to do it in their 40s, it’s that the opportunity to have children has only just arisen later on in a woman’s life’, he added.

The report highlighted a 4.6 per cent increase in the number of couples undergoing Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART), rising from 46,481 in 2002 to 48,706 in 2006. In total 10,522 babies were born in Australia and New Zealand as a result of ART in 2006, with numbers rising at an average rate of 5 per cent per year between 2002 and 2006. Of these, 78 per cent were singleton births, reflecting the recent drive to make single embryo transfer (SET) the policy of all fertility clinics.

Professor Michael Chapman, Head of Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of New South Wales in Sydney told The Age that fewer women than ever were having multiple births, with fewer than one per cent of women having more than two babies.

‘The multiple pregnancy rate, which six or seven years ago was in the 20 per cent range, is now down to 11 per cent’, he said, adding: ‘It’s virtually halved from its peak and that’s good for the parents, it’s good for society, because many of them end up in special care units and with long-term medical problems’.

The aim of SET policy is to avoid the risks associated with multiple births, such as premature birth, low birth weight, an increased risk of death in the first week and an increased risk of cerebral palsy around four times that for singleton births. However, SET is not always considered the best policy. For example, some experts have criticised the recent decision to make SET part of UK fertility guidelines, pointing to the low success rates of IVF, the lack of state provision on the National Health Service and the high private fees.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Septuplet joy for Egyptian couple

An Egyptian woman has given birth to seven babies in the northern city of Alexandria, doctors said. The mother, named as 27-year-old Ghazala Khamis, is said to be well and the septuplets – four boys and three girls – are reported to be stable. The babies are said to weigh between 1.45 and 2.8kg (3-6lb); the couple already have three girls.

They sought fertility treatment hoping to have a boy, and were said to be astonished at the multiple pregnancy. Since the introduction of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment 30 years ago, the number of multiple births has increased dramatically.

Health experts say septuplets are very rare, and it is even less common for all to survive. The seven were delivered by Caesarean section a month early, and all have been placed in incubators designed for premature babies. The woman’s brother said that the Egyptian health minister had promised free milk and nappies for the babies for two years, to help the family cope.

Posted by : Goral Gandhi, MSc,

                   Laboratory Director,

                   Rotunda – Center for Human Reproduction (Pvt) Ltd

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Identification of Viable Embryos in IVF

A group of Australian scientists has used a new genetic analysis technique to assess IVF embryos, to identify those most likely to develop in the womb. The findings were published in the journal Human Reproduction in May 2008.

 Around one per cent of all births in the UK are from IVF treatment and the latest figures show that of 32,600 women who underwent treatment, only 11,000 resulted in births. One in four IVF pregnancies is multiple, compared with one in 80 for a natural conception.

The process of IVF involves extracting many eggs for fertilisation before choosing one, two or sometimes even three embryos for transfer into the uterus. This can lead to multiple pregnancies, which carry extra health risks for mothers and babies. Embryo selection is currently based on observations of morphology (shape and appearance) to predict their potential viability. The problem could be overcome by finding an objective, measurable means of testing embryo viability, rather than a subjective one such as morphology, to definitively pick a single, viable embryo.

 The study, carried out by scientists at the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, Monash University, Australia, and the Centre for Human Reproduction, Genesis Athens Hospital, Athens, Greece, recruited 48 women undergoing IVF treatment. Once their fertilised eggs reached the ‘blastocyst’ stage, an early stage of development around day five, between eight and 20 cells from the surface layer were removed. These samples were then genetically analysed using microarray techniques, which measures gene activity in the cells.

 Of the embryos selected as being viable, one or more were transferred into the 48 women, 25 of whom became pregnant, with 37 babies being born. The scientists took DNA samples from the babies, and used DNA fingerprinting to match which blastocyst grew into which baby. This enabled them to compare the activity levels of key genes, to identify which had been active in the viable, compared to the non-viable early embryos. These genes identified were involved in key processes such as cell adhesion, cell communication, cellular metabolic processes and response to stimuli.

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