Assisted HatchingExperiencing a failure during in vitro fertilization (IVF), or even facing predictions that your IVF cycle has a high risk of failure, is disheartening. IVF is not cheap, financially or emotionally. Many couples hang a lot of hope on the success of these cycles. Depending on your fertility situation, one procedure your fertility specialist might suggest to help achieve conception is assisted hatching.

Many times when IVF fails, it is because the embryo did not implant in the uterus successfully. The reason it does not implant correctly is because of the hatching process. As an embryo is developing, it is contained in the zona pellucida, or a layer of proteins. The embryo must hatch out of the zona pellucida to attach to the uterine walls. When an embryo cannot successfully achieve this, IVF fails. Difficulty hatching occurs when the zona pellucida is too thick or when the embryo is thought to have insufficient energy to complete hatching.

As you can guess by the name, assisted hatching helps the embryo accomplish this feat. While the embryo develops, an embryologist analyzes the zona pellucida to see if it is thin enough for the embryo to emerge.

The embryologist manipulates the zona pellucida and creates a small hole on the fourth day of development when there are six to eight cells in the embryo. The embryo is stabilized with a pipette that inserts an acidified solution to create the defect in the zona pellucida. The acid solution is then rinsed off, and the embryo is returned to the incubator before transferring to the uterus.

There are some risks that can occur with assisted hatching, the same way there are risks with traditional pregnancy or IVF.

• The likelihood of having identical twins increases with assisted hatching since the manipulation can cause the embryo to split into identical halves.
• There could be damage to the embryo if the manipulation is performed incorrectly.
• Fetal complications could arise, including physical deformity or conjoined twins.
• The mother can experience high blood pressure, infection, nausea or mood swings.

However, there are many benefits to choosing assisted hatching over traditional IVF, including:

• Needing to transfer fewer embryos
• Allows blastocyst culture to occur
• Increased implantation success rates

If an embryologist has analyzed your embryos in the past and noticed the zona pellucida is too thick, they will likely recommend assisted hatching for your next round of IVF.

Women who have an elevated FSH on day three of their cycle should consider assisted hatching. This technology is also recommended for women who are of advanced maternal age, defined as older than 38, as the embryos are said to have less energy to complete hatching at this point. It is also recommended for women who have experienced two or more failed IVF cycles.

Sources:

“IVF and Assisted Hatching.” Fertility Authority. Web. 5 Sep. 2013. .

“Assisted Hatching.” Shared Journey. Web. 5 Sep. 2013. .