Selling Your Health For Cash

Donors For Sperm, Eggs, Plasma, Hair Booming

During the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, people are cutting back. They're also turning to creative ways to make extra cash.

Egg donation centers across the country report a rapid increase in willing donors. Sperm donation centers are seeing a similar trend, and the Web site BloodBanker.com -- a resource for people seeking to sell plasma -- saw a 50 percent increase in traffic during 2008.

One industry group said total plasma donations may hit 16 million this year, which is up from 10 million three years ago.

Another industry experiencing a surge is hair vending. TheHairTrader.com has seen a 40-percent increase in hair sellers over the past few months, said the Web site's executive partner, Jacalyn Elise.

It's no wonder -- a good head of hair can fetch up to $2,600. Just how do you make a sale on your hair? It takes more than just naturally beautiful locks. The highest-selling hair comes from people who live healthy lifestyles. Eating healthily, avoiding smoking and avoiding drugs all make hair shiny and marketable.

Plasma is a straw-colored, clear liquid in which blood cells travel. The fluid also carries other nutrients like sugars, fats and minerals; antibodies; waste products; and hormones. Plasma is 90 percent water and is essential for human survival.

Like blood, plasma can be transfused. However, this relies on people to donate plasma, either for free or for profit. If you decide to sell your plasma, look in the Yellow Pages or nearby college campus for the closest for-profit plasma collection center, blood bank or blood collection facility. Eat two hours before you donate and drink plenty of water. Plan to spend a few hours at the center the first time you go.

Although one egg donation can bring in up to $10,000, prospective donors should consider the health risks -- both physical and psychological. Physical risks include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, infection and pain. Psychological risks include guilt and concern about the children who may have resulted from the donation.

A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility shows most women who donate their eggs at fertility clinics look back at the donation experience with satisfaction, but some have long-term physical and psychological concerns.

Participants were 80 women who first donated eggs between 1989 and 2002. In a questionnaire, they stated both altruistic and financial reasons for donating their eggs.

Overall, the warnings about psychological risks didn't ring true for the donors. Two-thirds of the women reported only positive feelings about the donation experience, 14 percent reported negative feelings, and 12 percent had mixed feelings. After donating, 16 percent of the women had physical problems like ovarian cysts, fertility problems and weight gain. Seven women said they were curious to know about the children that resulted from their donations.

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