Here's another sign of the tough economic times: Some clinics are reporting a surge in the number of women applying to donate eggs or serve as surrogate mothers for infertile couples.

The going rate for a surrogate is about $25,000. Egg donors generally receive $3,000 to $8,000. But a few agencies advertise that they'll pay much more for specific characteristics. One ad running in campus newspapers promises $25,000 for a donor who is "100% Jewish with ... High SAT Scores... Attractive, at Healthy Body Weight and Free of Genetic Diseases."

"Whenever the employment rate is down, we get more calls," said Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, an agency in Chicago where inquiries from would-be egg donors are up 30% in recent weeks — to about 60 calls a day. "We're even getting men offering up their wives. It's pretty scary."

James Liu, a reproductive endocrinologist at University Hospitals, Case Medical Center, in Cleveland, said there is no waiting now for egg donors since his roster has swelled from the usual 4 to 17.

Andrew Vorzimer, an attorney who represents prospective parents in Los Angeles, says the usual six-month wait for a surrogate in California has vanished as well.

"Many of these women have college loans to pay off or they want to help buy a house or provide for their own kids' education," said Vorzimer, who is also CEO of Egg Donation Inc., a recruiting agency in Encino. "But they are also looking to do something good for other families. And some of them say they love being pregnant."