Thanks to new technologies and procedures, IVF treatments are now becoming more and more successful, even for couples with a poor fertility prognosis. Introduced in the 1990s, assisted hatching is a procedure that can help to improve your chances of IVF success. Available at most fertility clinics nationwide, the procedure is specifically recommended for couples who are most at risk for poor IVF outcomes.
What is Assisted Hatching?
Assisted hatching is a relatively new technique used during certain IVF procedures. It is performed in order to help an embryo hatch out of its protective layering and implant into the uterus. During the initial stages of development, your embryo is contained in a layer of proteins, known as the zona pellicuda. The zona pellicuda is designed to protect the embryo until it reaches the blastocyst stage of development. In order to successfully implant into the uterine lining, the embryo needs to hatch out of this zona pellicuda and attach to the walls of the uterus. Sometimes, embryos have a difficult time hatching out of their protective layer. This can occur if the zona pellicuda is too thick or if the embryo does not have enough energy to break through the layer. Assisted hatching attempts to help these embryos break out away from the zona pellicuda by creating a small hole in this outer lining.
How is Assisted Hatching Performed?
Assisted hatching is a very delicate procedure, requiring immense skill. It is performed using micromanipulation techniques, under a microscope, during the fourth day of embryo development. The embryo is first placed in a petrie dish containing culture solution. A special pipette is then used to hold the embryo in place. The embryologist makes a small hole at the zona pellucida by using Laser. The embryo is then washed in a special solution and placed back inside an incubator until embryo transfer can take place.
Who Can Use Assisted Hatching?
Assisted hatching techniques aren’t suitable for every couple. Instead, the procedure is typically recommended for:
– women over the age of 37
– women with elevated FSH on day 3 of their menstrual cycle
– couples who have experienced failed IVF cycles
– couples whose embryos have a particularly thick zona pellicuda
Risks Associated with Assisted Hatching
Unfortunately, there are some risks associated with assisted hatching procedures. In particular, assisted hatching procedures do seem to increase the likelihood that you will have identical twins (also known as monozygotic twins). This is because the micromanipulation technique used to break through the zona pellicuda can sometimes cause the embryo to split into two identical halves. There is also an increased risk of:
– damage to the embryo, potentially causing death
– fetal complications
– physical deformity
– conjoined twins
Because of the possible damage embryos, Assisted Hatching must be done by highly skilled embryologists.