Sunitha Rao R,

Vegetarian, educated egg donors top couples’ wishlist
Gynaecologists who run in-vitro fertilization centres in Bengaluru are increasingly seeing couples keen on knowing the caste and religion and, if they can help it, a hint of the donor’s IQ.
BENGALURU: Fair, tall and, most importantly, vegetarian. These are not specifications from a matrimonial ad, but attributes childless couples are looking for in egg donors.Gynaecologists who run in vitro fertilization centres in the city are increasingly seeing couples keen on knowing the caste and religion and, if they can help it, a hint of the donor’s IQ. True to type, Indians are turning the focus on food habits too.

Curiously, graduates top the preference list, giving the nature-versus-nurture debate a new twist.

“Every third couple I come across wants a vegetarian donor. Their logic: ‘When I’m not able to have a child with my own egg, I must get the best from others.’ They’re unwilling to reveal whether they eat meat, but prefer eggs of vegetarian donors. Some ask for eggs of young Brahmin or Jain women,” said Dr Kamini A Rao, medical director, Milann, The Fertility Centre. They also make enquiries about height, complexion and education, she added.

There was a time when a couple with O+ blood group opted for a healthy donor from the same stream so the child’s blood group matched theirs. Now, the egg donor’s lifestyle tops the wishlist.

“Earlier, couples were choosy about religion and complexion. More than 5% still insist on knowing the religion. Now, a large number prefers vegetarian donors and wants all details about the donor’s food choices,” said Dr Aviva Pinto Rodrigues, fertility consultant, Nova IVI Fertility. “We do a disease profile of the donor and explain it to couples,” she added.

Many IVF clinics refuse to entertain such demands. “I find them silly and ask the couple to approach a donor bank, instead. There was a couple keen on a Brahmin donor,” says Dr Devaki Gunasheela, who heads Gunasheela IVF Centre. Here, only married women with one or two kids make for eligible donors. “We must make sure the egg is healthy and fertile, and not bother about what the woman eats,” she said.

When TOI contacted a donor bank in Malleswaram, clinicians confirmed tall and fair graduates are sought after. Most egg donors are in the 21-35 age group. They’re paid Rs 20,000-Rs 35,000 by IVF centres, though the amount is unregulated.

‘What’s his job?’

It’s quite the same with sperm donors too, but with a bigger ask: the job profile. For couples from rural backgrounds, the donor’s job matters the most, Dr Kamini said. “They ask us to look for sperm donors who work in the government sector and have high-paying jobs. They want intelligent and good-looking donors,” she added.

The rulebook

Guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research on the mandatory requirements for an egg donor:

* Must be free of HIV, Hepatitis B and C infections, hypertension, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, and identifiable and common genetic disorders such as thalassemia

* Blood group and Rh status must be determined and placed on record

* Other relevant information such as height, weight, age, educational qualification, profession, colour of the skin and eyes, family background with respect to history of any familial disorder, must be recorded in an appropriate manner

* Age must be between 21 and 35 years

(Source: ICMR website)

Times View

The trend of couples seeking the ‘perfect’ donor once again brings to the fore Indians’ age-old obsession with caste, race, religion and fair skin. The fuss over the donor’s food habits and lifestyle shows they don’t want just a child, but a custom-made one. Given that they’re unable to conceive and the success rate of IVF is not 100%, wannabe parents should be happy with a healthy baby. Clinics and doctors who shut the door on these narrow-minded individuals and refuse to give in to their demands are doing the ethical thing, and setting an example for others. These couples need to be reminded that good genes cannot guarantee a good upbringing.