Assisted hatching is a relatively new technology used in the IVF procedure. It is performed to help in the implantation of the embryo. In the initial stages of development, the embryo is enveloped in a layer of proteins called the “zona pellucida”. This forms an outer shell that protects the embryo until it reaches the blastocyst stage. To successfully implant in the uterine wall, the embryo must hatch out of the shell. It was determined that some embryos have a difficult time hatching, either due to lack of energy or a somewhat thicker shell.
How is Assisted Hatching Performed?
The procedure is done on the 4th day of embryonic development. The embryologist uses micromanipulation to hold the embryo in place while a pipette holding an acidic solution is placed against the wall of the zona pellucida. As the acid is released a small hole or defect in the shell. The embryo is then washed in a solution and then held in an incubator for a few hours awaiting transfer to the uterus.
Who Can Benefit from Assisted Hatching?
This procedure may be recommended for the following cases:
- Advanced maternal age (over 37)
- Women with elevated FSH on day 3 of their menstrual cycle
- Couples who have had failed IVF attempts
- Poor embryo quality
What are the Risks of Assisted Hatching?
As with any assisted reproductive technology there are associated risks. The procedure can cause damage to the embryo with a reduction in viability. The likelihood of identical twins is also higher, as the procedure can cause the embryo to split into two identical halves.
Assisted hatching has fairly high success rates, but they vary greatly between clinics. This is due to the very specialized procedure and skill required. Talk to your doctor to discuss whether assisted hatching is right for you.