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Wombs for rent in India: Inside the 'house of surrogates' where poverty-stricken women carry babies for wealthy foreigners

  • House Of Surrogates documentary airs on BBC4 tomorrow
  • Surrogates are paid $8k - but clinic takes $28k from clients
  • Commercial surrogacy now worth over £1billion a year

Michael, 62, and wife Veronica, 33, have come all the way to India from the UK to Dr Patel's clinic

 'These are Alexander and Katerina, I've had the names for two years,' says the Russian wife of British doctor Michael, 62, of the two embryos that have just been implanted in a surrogate mother.
Veronica, 33, was born with one fallopian tube and one ovary, leaving her unable to carry a child.
She and her husband have travelled from the U.K to Dr Nanya Patel's clinic in rural Gujarat, India, where two of her fertilised embryos are to be carried by a virtual stranger.

Veronica was born with just one fallopian tube and one ovary, leaving her unable to carry a child

'As a physician, I find it somewhat ironic to see poor individuals who are pregnant and choose to terminate their baby... and individuals who wish deeply to be pregnant but are unable to,' says Michael.
'[The outside of the clinic] looks very ordinary. It hides the interior, where the science is quite professional, procedures are sterile, and it's no different what I'm used to in the Western world,' he says.
Veronica adds: 'My last chance of trying to have my own child is to use a surrogate... Many women suffer, they don't have this possibility to become mothers... which I did... we can have our children, who can make their own children.'
'The embryos for me are already alive, they are waiting for that moment where they can grow and be taken out and say "Hello mummy"... it's like my whole future starts today, right now,' she says.
'We've had to come all this way to experience this and we're absolutely overwhelmed,' adds Michael.
Dr Patel prays as she places the embryos inside the uterus of a surrogate.
In two weeks, a blood test will show if she is pregnant.
A new documentary, which airs tomorrow, lifts the lid on India's controversial commercial surrogacy business.
The film goes inside the Akanksha infertility and IVF clinic, based in the small city of Anand in rural Gujarat. Dr Nanya Patel runs the clinic and associated dormitory, which houses up to 100 surrogate mothers at a time for the duration of their pregnancy.
The clinic hires women to carry foreign babies for couples with fertility problems. Dr Patel pays her surrogates US$8,000 (£4,950), and receives $28,000 (£17,330) from keen clients.
House of Surrogates: Dr Nayna Patel and the women carrying babies for her clients
Dr Patel has been described as one of India's most controversial figures, accused of running a 'baby-making factory' and exploiting poor local women. 
She is one of the pioneers of commercial surrogacy in India – an industry now worth over $1billion (£619m) a year - which attracts childless couples from all over the world who pay Indian women to act as surrogates. 
A new, feature-length documentary has gained unprecedented access to the controversial doctor, and follows Dr Patel, her international clients and the women inside her house of surrogates.

In it, we meet Canadian Barbara, who is waiting for the paperwork to come through in order to take her two-month-old son, Ceron, back to Canada. 
In the meantime, Edan, who acted as her surrogate, is employed as the baby's wet nurse. However,  her time with Ceron is coming to an end.
Many parents employ their surrogates to work as nannies and to wet-nurse their own babies, forming powerful bonds with the child they've given birth to, until the inevitable day that they are separated forever. 
The BBC also meets couples including British doctor, Michael, and his Russian wife Veronica, who are at the first stage of the surrogacy process, Australian Sam and his Serbian wife, Jana, who've come for the birth of their child, and American Amy, whose son has just been born via surrogate and has come to see him for the first time.
Vasanti with her daughter: She has two children but is currently pregnant with a Japanese couple's baby

We are also introduced to the women carrying the babies: among them Papiya, who is hoping to act as a surrogate for the second time, and Vasanti who has two children of her own, but is currently pregnant with a Japanese couple's baby. 
The fee from Vasanti's surrogacy is being used to build a new house for her family. 
'Things are getting more expensive we can't afford them,' she says.
Three surrogates at the door of the house
In the film, the doctor addresses the controversy surrounding her clinic and her personally.
'I have faced criticism and I will in the future,' says Dr Patel. 'According to many, I am controversial. There have been allegations of baby selling, baby making factory.
But Dr Patel defends herself robustly from accusations of exploitation: 'The surrogates are doing the physical work agreed and they are being compensated for it.'
 Surrogate mothers take a break for lunch at the Akanksha Infertility and IVF Clinic in Anand, Gujarat (l) and 37-year-old surrogate mother Hamza Christian poses for a photograph at the clinic

Surrogate mother Rubina Mondal (31) with her husband, Bishwadeep Mondal and her son, Sahil

 While critics accuse Dr Patel of taking advantage of the women who carry these babies, she describes herself as a feminist who is empowering them to take charge of their lives and improve their future prospects.
Find out more on the BBC website here.

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