Stephanie Talmadge, USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent
With tuition fees and interest rates on student loans being as high as they are, some college women are turning to egg donation to help pay for school and loans.
While payment for donated eggs can be high, ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on the selected method and clinic, the process is lengthy - sometimes taking up to six months to complete. Donors must submit applications before undergoing physical and psychological screenings and intense hormone therapy, involving self-administered shots.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, egg donations comprised 12% of assisted reproductive technology procedures, a number steady from 2008 figures.
Jasmine Stein, a Purdue University graduate, donated her eggs last year to escape a financial bind.
After completing the process, Stein published a blog on The Huffington Post, "I Donated My Eggs For The Money, And I Don't Regret It," and, seven months later, says that's still true, despite the hundreds of negative comments she received.
"There's still some stigma around it," Stein says, but she also believes "(egg donation) is becoming more and more of an option" for college-age women.
Another student, Chelsea McDonald, a senior at Texas State University, agrees.
"A lot of people think it's really weird, but I want people to know it's not," says McDonald.
McDonald became a registered egg donor through Reproductive Medicine Associates in San Antonio earlier this year to help pay off college loans, and is waiting to be selected by a recipient so she can finish the donation process.
"I'm doing something for them, and they're doing something for me," McDonald says. "I have eggs that I'm not using, and if I can get paid for them, why not?" She likens the procedure to being compensated for giving blood.
Alex Stewart, a junior at the University of Missouri, donated her eggs in May privately to a couple after seeing their flier outside one of her classrooms on campus.
"Since I don't work during the school year, I thought it would be a great way to pay for some of the things I want to do while I'm in school, like study abroad," said Stewart.
Some agencies, such as Georgia's Reproductive Biology Associates, specifically seek college women. Its website notes that donors "must possess some form of higher education, above the high school level."
Stewart adds that she sees more agencies advertising "help pay for college," and that they may be picking up on the market of young women in school.
With a lump sum of money that large, it's tempting, says Radha Inguva, a senior at American University in Washington, D.C.
After seeing ads on Craigslist and fliers "all over campus", Inguva considered donating her eggs, until the next semester when she started an internship with the National Organization for Women (NOW).
At NOW, Inguva saw a documentary film called Eggsploitation, by The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, which tells the stories of women who had negative egg donor experiences.
Inguva concedes the film may be biased, but it changed her perspective on egg donation. Now, she doesn't think the risks are worth the ultimate payment.
"I really feel like this is prostitution, because you're giving up a part of your sexual health for money, and that's not right," she says.
Jennifer Lahl, president and founder of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, wrote and directed Eggsploitation after women who experienced problems with egg donation reached out to her with their stories.
"The industry doesn't want to hear about (their problems)," says Lahl.
She also believes that the egg donation industry under-represents the frequency of complications, something Stein experienced during her procedure.
Stein was diagnosed with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can happen when ovaries become too stimulated and fluid builds up around them.
Despite her sickness, Stein still would recommend egg donation to a friend considering it, but she offers one piece of advice.
"Do your research. Ask more questions. I jumped into it."
Eggsploitation will be re-released this September with three additional interviews, and Lahl has no plans to stop speaking out.
"I do think it has become more mainstream," Lahl says. "More women are talking about it," and have friends that have done it.
There also is a lack of research about the women who are donating eggs.
"I think at one point we'll reach a tipping point, where (egg donation will reach) a level of concern where we need to compel studies to be done," says Lahl.
Stephanie Talmadge is a summer 2013 Collegiate Correspondent.