Strapped for cash and looking for some extra money to pay for rent and college tuition, Stephanie, 23, decided to put all of her eggs in one basket.
A bartender from Chicago, Stephanie works two jobs and wants to go back to college to study biology. After her roommate donated her eggs to a fertility clinic, Stephanie, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her privacy, said she decided to help an infertile couple and make $7,000 in the process.
"I want to go back to college, and it is really a matter of needing the money," she told ABCNews.com. "I go to the doctor tomorrow to get put on birth control, so that my cycle matches whoever ends up carrying my egg. Once I'm on it for three weeks, then I'll have to start injecting myself with hormones."
Stephanie said if not for the faltering economy, she would not be donating her eggs. Fertility clinics across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles told ABCNews.com that they have seen an increase in the number of women seeking information or actively donating eggs in the past six months, with many women claiming the lagging economy as their motivator.
"I make roughly $800 a week. The $7,000 will help, but its not going to pay for an education. I'm still going to have to take out loans," Stephanie said. "Having the extra money alleviates some of the stress of being able to afford college. I'm worried that my rent keeps going up, and I feel like this gives me a cushion. I don't have a car, so I don't need gas money, but I really need it for rent money."
In Chicago, Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, an agency that pairs egg donors with infertile couples, said several of the clinics in the area have reported an increase in women looking to donate.
"In my 16 years in this field, I've noticed a trend that when the economy or unemployment rate starts slipping, we start receiving way more calls. Lately, we've been very busy -- much more than usual," she said.
Von Halle said her agency receives 30 to 50 inquiries a day by phone and on the Internet, up from 10 to 30 a day six months ago.
"The calls and Internet inquiries right now are astronomical. We're looking for specific donors between 21 and 29 years old, but a lot of these people are pushing that. They call and say, 'Well, I'm only 32.' In 50 phone calls, we might get one suitable donor," she said.
Chicago donors make $7,000 for their first donation and are allowed to donate up to six times.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a nonprofit trade organization that represents reproductive health clinics and doctors, said it would be another two years before there was enough data to verify anecdotal reports that the economy is affecting donation rates.
"There has certainly been an upward trend over the past 20 years in the number of donors," said Eleanor Nicoll, spokeswoman for the ASRM.
In 2005, the latest year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has data on egg donation, some 134,260 women had assisted reproductive procedures. Of those, 16,161 women, or 12 percent, received donated eggs. In 1995, there were 4,783 eggs used in 59,142 procedures, or 8 percent of the total.