A 43-year old grandmother has given birth to her own daughter's IVF twins. Lata Nagla, a 26-year old Indian woman living in the UK with her husband, has Rokitansky syndrome, a rare congenital condition where the uterus does not develop normally. This meant that she was unable to carry or give birth to her own children. However, she has normally functioning ovaries and was able to produce eggs to be used in IVF treatment with her husband's sperm, creating embryos that were later transferred to her mother's womb.
The couple looked into fertility treatments in the UK when they first found that they had problems conceiving. While undergoing fertility investigations, it was discovered that the woman's womb was absent. The couple then looked for a woman to act as a surrogate for them - in both the UK and in India - with no luck. They then approached Dr Nayana Patel, an Indian fertility expert, who suggested that the woman could ask her own mother to be the surrogate. Eventually, her mother, Rhadha Patel, who has three other children, agreed to carry the babies. In an interview with an Indian newspaper last month, she said that it took her a month to make up her mind.
The fertility treatment was carried out at a private fertility clinic in Gujarat, India, by Dr Patel. A first cycle of IVF was started in May, but was unsuccessful. A second attempt produced five embryos, which were all transferred to the grandmother's womb. Commenting on the situation, Dr Patel said: 'The IVF was technically more difficult in this case because [the daughter] didn't have a uterus'. 'But the grandmother had no complications and was totally healthy during the pregnancy', she added. The twins - a boy weighing 4.4 pounds and a girl weighing 4 pounds - were born last week.
The couple, who originally asked not to be named, are expected to return to the UK with the children in two months. Mrs Patel had said she feared a 'backlash' against the family if their names became known, including the fact that the publicity might jeopardise the marriage prospects of her other two daughters. 'We were not sure about the kind of reaction we would get from society', she said. 'It's a fear we are living with, but our daughter's happiness will help us over this'. Now, Mrs Patel has spoken to a UK Sunday newspaper, saying that being a surrogate for her daughter was the 'best thing' she had ever done.But the surrogacy arrangement has inevitably been attracting some criticism. Josephine Quintavalle, the founder of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), said that 'grandmother surrogacy' has some 'very uncomfortable aspects', adding that the social roles of grandmother and mother would be mixed up and when the children found out the circumstances of their birth they may be confused. 'We should always be looking at what is the ideal situation, and what is not ideal is for a grandmother to give birth to her grandchildren', she added. Nuala Scarisbrick, from the charity Life, said 'this case will disturb most right-minded people', adding 'the welfare of these baby twins has been put last, after the wishes of the parents, the grandmother and the IVF doctor involved'. But Professor Lord Robert Winston, a UK fertility expert, said that he had no problems with the arrangement, calling it 'an act of remarkable altruism'.