"It's not surprising that much of this business is migrating into cyberspace. Most people don't mind buying a Lands' End item at the store, but it's awkward to buy eggs in public," said Professor Debora Spar of Harvard Business School, an advocate for regulation of the U.S. fertility industry.
Although buying sperm or an egg can technically be as simple as a mouse click, experts say hopeful recipients may be asked by less reputable egg donor sites to pay large, nonrefundable sums upfront to see profiles, or be made to wait for months for donors that never materialize.
An egg used to cost about $2,500, but now prices are as much as $35,000 in some cases. A lack of regulatory oversight has enabled a new breed of marketers called "egg hunters" to act as Internet brokers between recipients and donors according to Dr. Drew Moffitt, co-medical director of the Arizona Reproductive Medicine Specialists.
Moffitt says, "The introduction of the egg hunters has been one of the things that has led to the escalation of fees. The real loser in this whole game winds up being the recipient." In addition, fertility experts say that women should not be seduced by the larger payoffs of donating an egg -- which can be a time-consuming and invasive process.
Many experts also agree than a woman egg donor may later regret that another woman is raising children they helped to create. Of course, the egg donation process at certified centers goes through various filtering criteria after donation occurs, and the potential recipient and the sperm of the would-be father are tested to make sure a pregnancy is viable.