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Alternative Ways to Parenthood

Medfem Fertility Clinic in Bryanston, specialising in egg donation fertility treatment hosted a complementary evening on sharing some insights, medical information and legal guidelines around egg and sperm donation as well as surrogacy for persons who need this type of assistance to achieve the dream of parenthood.

It was a wonderful experience being around professional persons who have responded to their life's calling of helping others have children. 

Dr Tony Rodrigues, internationally renowned fertliity specialist gave an overview of the scenarios when persons need third parties to assist and the professional protocol offered by Medfem.  He reiterated that a thorough and comprehensive assessement of the patient is undertaken to confirm the exact fertility needs and to optimise the chances of pregnancy as best as possible.  His careful and cautious approach is always towards the objective of helping people have children as safely as possible.

The working together of professionals who specialise in the specific fields all contribute to the optimisation of the fertlity treatment, being fertility clinic, psychologist, egg donation agency and lawyer (required for surrogate motherhood court applications).

Persons who have a known medical condition adversely impacting on their fertility are encouraged to bring any supporting reports and/ or information to their first consultation.

Some highlights were given around egg donation including the significant fact that egg donation is of course legal in South Africa and reputable parties involved in this service are in full compliance, e.g:
  • Providing adequate information on potential egg donors to recipients (thus the requirement for the egg donor application form to be completed as thoroughly as possible.

  • Limiting the number of egg donor pregnancies to six per legal criteria.
  • Maintaining full anonymity about the egg donor - thus withholding both adult pictures and identifying details about the egg donor.
As discussions always proceed around egg donors, we appplaud and uphold our egg donors who give of themselves and do so lovingly and ultruisticly.

Egg donation is an opportunity for persons to become parents when:
  • Their own ovarian reserve is depleted
  • They have continued failed IVF treatments
  • They are genetically predisposed to hereditary concerns
  • Premature menopause and/ or
  • Guided to consider egg donation by their treating doctor.

Dr Rodrigues (fondly known as Dr Rod) indicated that if he is concerned about the age of the intending parent, he requires a medical certificate from her obstetrician to confirm her medical suitability to carry the pregnancy.

The IVF process was explained.  Without third parties, Medfem works with the patient's natural cycle - where possible.  With the involvement of third parties - egg donor and/ or surrogate, synchronisation of menstrual cycles is required between egg donor and recipient/ surrogate.  This is a process facilitated by fertility sisters using the contraceptive pill.

During the monitoring stages, it would become evident how and the quantity of follices which are developing.

The eggs are retrieved vaginally.

Dr Rodrigues confirmed that the freezing of embryos has proven to be the same as transferring fresh embryos, which affords recipients an opportunity to access their embryos at a time which may be convenient for them.  Patients may consider freezing embryos when their surrogacy court order has not been received and the surrogate may not legally have the embryos transferred.  If an egg donor is only available at a certain time, this option is also valuable and/ or if the recipient is still addressing her own medical issues. 

Debate surfaced around whether persons disclose to children conceived of donor eggs that an egg donor was involved.  Mandy Rodrigues, guided that if such diclosure is to happen, it should start from as early as possible in the child's life and undertaken with much love and support.  Most persons elect not to divulge this fact at all.  More on the anonymity of egg donation and keeping this fact private online.

Surrogacy - an entirely different concept - requires the asistance of a lawyer who specialises in surrogacy to ensure the court order can be obtained as efficiently as possible.  Specific legal criteria around surrogacy include:
  • Medical necessity for surrogacy which is permanent and irreversible

  • South African domicilium (intent to permanently reside in South Africa) for surrogate and at least one of the commissioning parents
  • Comprehensive psychological assessment for both commissioning parents and surrogate
  • Use of at least one of the commissioning parent's gametes - although this matter is under change
  • Embryos may not be transferred into a surrogate mother until the High Court has approved the surrogate motherhood agreement between such parties.

Mandy Rodrigues, nationally recognised for third party reproductive psychological assessments shared her lessons following more than two decades of experience in this field.  She explained how assessments have evolved and advanced quite extensively.  Not only is the psychlogical assessment for surrogacy a legal requirement, it too aids to provide a very real support for the intimate relationship between surrogate and commissioning parent.  It may be that a surrogate passes a surrogacy assessment but the emotional/ logistical connection between these two parties may not result in a fruitful relationship and Mandy provides essential guidance and support around this.  Her professionalism has resulted in her high reputation around the courts around the country and her being a sought after service provider.

Real life advice was provided by both South Africa's most experienced surrogate and a recipient of donor eggs.  The common point between these two persons is that the baby is really that of the person who has driven the objective.  So whilst the surrogate gave birth, she understands and comprehends upfront that she is not intended to bond with the child in her womb as she is the caregiver for this limited period.  The recipient of donor eggs supported this fact by expressing her views that although genetically she has not contributed, she wanted this child and loves her daughter with her every being.  She also feels that her little miracle looks and talks like her.  This is supported by the views of epigenitics and views that there is indeed an interaction between the uterus and the embryo.

An evening of sharing some fertility guidelines, input and insight was enjoyed by old friends and colleagues at Medfem with additional professional contributions and availability of Dr Clark, Dr van Schouwenburg (apologies from Dr van Rensburg) and Krina Von Molendorff, who has a heart of gold and empathy for all who cross her path.

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