fertility

'Egg agents' recruit women to sell their eggs

Nov. 26, 2013 at 11:35 AM ET

Men aren’t the only ones in pursuit of young, healthy, beautiful women. Parents struggling with fertility issues are looking for them, too, and they're often turning to “egg agents” who can secure egg donors with the most desirable genes.

Shellie Smith, founder of The Egg Donor Program in Studio City, Calif., has been on a mission to match prospective parents with their ideal donors for two decades.

“We’re people who search high and low for women who have qualities that other people would desire,” Smith told TODAY.

One of those women is Robyn Marie Young, a 28-year-old actress and dancer who lives in New York. With her good looks and athletic body, Young’s genes are in such high demand that she has already donated her eggs three times, earning $8,000-$10,000 each time.

“I find it flattering that people would want to actually use my genes and have a kid that looks like me,” Young said.

Video: A controversial industry is coming to light: “egg agents” who use advertising to find women to serve as egg donors. NBC’s Katy Tur talks to one young woman who says she’s making thousands.

She first donated after seeing an ad in the back of a magazine looking for a “green-eyed Italian beauty.” Such “want ads” from egg agents looking for young women may sound odd, but Smith noted the recruiting technique has been around for a while and simply helps parents in need.

“It is a kind loving thing to do and much more acceptable than it was when we started,” Smith said.

Responding to an ad is only the beginning of the process for the woman who wants to take part. Prospective donors undergo background tests and health screenings; some even take part in interviews with couples seeking the eggs.

“I was so nervous, I kept smiling. But I wanted them to feel and know who I was,” Young recalled. 

But by donating her eggs several times, she also went against the advice of her own family members who were worried it might impact her health.

The recommended guidelines established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine say a woman should donate no more than six times. Dr. Shari Brasner, assistant clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said the long-term risks are minimal.

Meanwhile, Young is preparing for her fourth egg donation, scheduled to take place next week. She said this time will be her last.

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