Helping infertile couples conceive brings joy -- and profit

Smiling baby in blue hat

I’m always looking for interesting financial stories to tell, but the one I heard from Alexis LeMieux is one of the most surprising of my career.

I was initially drawn to LeMieux because she’s just 29 and had recently bought a suburban Chicago home out of foreclosure, negotiating a great price and low interest rate along the way.

Then I discovered how LeMieux had raised the down payment for that purchase -- by selling her eggs to an infertility clinic.

So I contacted LeMieux to see if she’d be willing to talk about that instead of her home-buying experience.

When she agreed, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

While I know many couples who are now wonderful parents because of fertility treatments, including the use of donated eggs, I’d never considered the other side of story.

I was a little afraid that I’d stumbled upon some sort of crazy Octomom.

But LeMieux was definitely sane, amazingly honest and, as it turns out, financially savvy.

Quite frankly, I was blown away.

LeMieux is a college grad with a good career as a hospital counselor, working in psychiatric intake.

The donation process she describes is rather arduous.

She signed up with an egg donation agency, which facilitates the process of matching donors with want-to-be parents who are unable to have children using their own eggs. She was first required to undergo a slew of blood tests and fill out an extensive profile that covered everything about her, medically and personally.

(Psychological and medical screenings, including genetic testing, are typical for potential egg donors.)

When LeMieux is matched with an egg recipient, some pretty serious drugs coordinate her ovulation cycle to the prospective mom’s. Then her eggs are removed in a minor surgical procedure under light anesthesia and prepared to be implanted into the recipient during an in-vitro fertilization procedure.

“You are doing a lot to your body,” says LeMieux, who made her first donation at age 28.

That’s why she’s paid, netting $7,000 each of the four times she’s donated her eggs, and is now preparing for her fifth donation.

Alexis LeMieux

Alexis LeMieux

The agency she is working with lets a woman donate eggs six times, or until her 30th birthday, which is standard.

LeMieux has already decided to do a sixth donation, and the agency is allowing it — even though it will be after her 30th birthday — because her success rate has been so high.

Every woman who has used her eggs has gotten pregnant.

The compensation for that has definitely put LeMieux ahead of the game financially.

Besides the down payment on her home, which equaled 5% of the $93,500 purchase price, the money covered some much-needed repairs.

LeMieux also paid off her car and made a couple of big payments on her student loans from graduate school to reduce the total amount.

A portion was set aside for taxes, since the government treats this as just another form of work-related income, and the rest went into her savings account.

LeMieux acknowledges that the idea to donate her eggs came from an article in a major women’s magazine about the extremes women go to make money.

But LeMieux says she was more inspired by the thought of doing good than profiting from the procedure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about one out of every 10 women ages 15 to 44 has a difficult time getting or staying pregnant.

When those women seek help, about 12% of the treatments fertility experts prescribe depend on donor eggs or embryos.

Although the process is anonymous, every couple has sent LeMieux a note through the agency, thanking her.

“The first couple sent me a card and said they had twin boys,” she says. “I was ecstatic. They were just so happy; it was really sweet. It really made it worth it.”

Another couple sent her a bouquet of flowers after her procedure, wrote her a two-page letter about how they met and shared their infertility story.

LeMieux says she had never realized how much infertility could affect a person’s life.

I did. But I’m glad I now know how the other side works, too.