Rawr! The fierce hustle to have dragon babies
How much of a role do the market and the business side of fertility clinics play in the demand for babies? And how does this market role affect egg donors and surrogate mothers? Just this year, the fertility industry saw an upsurge in demand that it had never seen before, owing to the phenomenon of the Dragon Baby.
Dragon Babies correspond to the Chinese zodiac Year of the Dragon, a particularly auspicious year in general, not only for having children. An article in the LA Times stated that a dragon baby is seen as having an increased likelihood of becoming rich and bringing good fortune to the entire family. “The dragon can swim and fly, traversing the seas as well as heaven. This symbolizes a life with no obstacles” (Xia 2012). Kathryn Manos, co-founder of Agency for Surrogacy Solutions and Global IVF Inc. reports to have seen over a 250% growth from Chinese and Chinese-American prospective families (Wang 2012). During the last Year of the Dragon, in 2000, the fertility industry was not large or well-established enough to register or incite the demand. This unprecedented clamor for “Dragon Babies” shows that the market can heavily impact fertility clinics, and therefore egg donors.
The dragon year and mythology extends beyond China into the surrounding countries of Korea, Japan and Taiwan. These Asian countries typically see about a 5% growth in birth rates during any Dragon Year, an increase which sharply drops with the start of the new zodiac year – the Year of the Snake. U.S. Based fertility clinics have also seen huge growth in the demand for Asian egg donors and Asian surrogate mothers. The target dates for conception and implantation range drastically from February 9, 2012, May 2, 2012, all the way to May 19, 2012, whereas any child conceived afterwards will be a snake, not a dragon (ibid, The Week 2012). Fertility clinics have been struggling to find enough Asian egg donors and surrogate mothers to meet the demand for the Dragon Baby year.
Still the main question is, how exactly would these Asian donors be affected by this market demand? There is surprisingly little data on the matter. A majority of the articles I have found, (amongst many of those featured in this post) have been from the perspectives of the prospective families or the fertility clinics. However, numerous fertility clinics have reported to instituting new recruitment strategies and tactics to draw in more Asian egg donors and surrogate mothers. The Beverly Hills Egg Donation Clinic admitted to more aggressively targeting Chinese language newspapers.
Scrambling to find more Asian egg donors is not the only accommodation that has been made for Asian American clientele. For instance, the Agency for Surrogacy Solutions has created a fertility program specifically for this year called “the Dragon Baby Special,” which brings in Chinese translators to create a more comfortable and bilingual setting to make Asian prospective parents quickly deliver babies in time to make the Dragon Year in a more relaxed and at-ease surrounding (Fusillo 2012).
Despite the numerous articles, there is virtually no information from the egg donors or surrogate mothers themselves. Minority groups are exceedingly difficult to recruit for egg donation and surrogate motherhood; this is usually associated with their (assumed) stronger association and belief in blood ties and family groups and also the various treatments and visualizations of the female body. It is very interesting to note that varying levels of superstition are driving both the demand and the limitation of egg donors and surrogate mothers. The prospective parents and families specifically want a Dragon Baby to increase the chance of prosperity and luck, while some Asian American women may not become egg donors or surrogate mothers due to the belief of the implications on genetic relations and family bonds.
Many questions abound from this paradox: Are clinics offering more financial compensation to egg donors and surrogate mothers? Are they advertising in a way which de-emphasizes family ties to potential surrogate mothers or egg donors? Or because of the drastic increase in demand and the desire to meet this demand, are fertility clinics more likely to accept an egg donor or surrogate mother who might not fully pass all the required psychological tests? Though Dragon Babies are a very interesting look at the market influencing the demand for egg donors and surrogate mothers, ultimately, there needs to be more of a voice from the egg donors and surrogate mothers themselves, and more information about how these fertility clinics are changing their recruitment strategies.
Fusillo, Mary. Feb 15, 2012. The Donor Solution Increases Asian Egg Donor Recruitment to Respond to Year of the Dragon Intended Parent Demand. PR Web. Retrieved from: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9191651.htm
Jan 24, 2012. China’s “Year of the Dragon” baby boom: A guide. The Week. Retrieved from: http://theweek.com/article/index/223630/chinas-year-of-the-dragon-baby-boom-a-guide
Wang, Shirley. Jan 23, 2012. Having a Baby in the Year of the Dragon is too Lucky to be Left to Chance. Wall Streeet Journal. Retrieved from: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577177011519558088.html
Xia, Rosanna. Feb 07, 2012. Year of the Dragon is also the Year of the Baby. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/07/local/la-me-dragon-babies-20120207