Understanding Embryo Assisted Hatching

When several in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts are made with no success, your fertility doctor may recommend embryo assisted hatching. This provides stronger support for implantation of the embryo in the uterus. Assisted hatching is also an alternative for women who may not be good candidates for IVF.

What is Embryo Assisted Hatching?

Following a natural conception, cells composing the fertilized egg start dividing. The developing embryo contained within a layer of proteins called the zona pellucida (egg wall) must first “hatch” from these proteins before it can successfully implant itself in the lining of the uterus. This hatching process occurs as a result of the embryo stretching and rupturing the zona pellucida.

Some women have a specific medical condition that inhibits the ability of an embryo to hatch and implant normally in the uterine lining.

Women at risk for hatching and implantation problems include:

  • Women over 35
  • Women with a history of poor quality or fragmented embryos
  • Women who have had several failed in vitro fertilization procedures
  • Women with abnormal or thickened zona pellucida

Additionally, women who produce abnormally high levels of follicle stimulating hormone during their cycle may be good candidates for embryo assisting hatching. FSH is a hormone necessary for stimulating ovarian follicle growth before releasing an egg at ovulation. To determine if a woman has excess FSH, doctors measure the baseline follicle stimulating hormone level on day three of the woman’s cycle to learn if she has an adequate ovarian reserve.

What Does the Embryo Assisted Hatching Procedure Entail?

Embryo assisted hatching involves a fertility doctor creating a thinning or opening in the zona pellucida just before transferring the embryo during IVF. This opening allows the embryo to “break through” the zona pellucida more easily at the proper time of development.

Fertility doctors use a tiny pipette containing acidified solutions to create the opening in the egg wall. Once embryos have hatched, they are cleaned and placed in an incubator two or three hours before being transferred to the woman’s uterus.

Embryo assisted hatching evolved from doctors noticing that embryos with thin egg walls had higher rates of implantation during an IVF procedure. Today, doctors utilize a technique called “micromanipulation,” or manipulation under a microscope, to make a tiny opening in the zona pellucida.

Does Embryo Assisted Hatching Increase Success Rates of IVF?

Research studies conducted at the NY Hospital-Cornell Medical Center found that assisted hatching not only improve IVF success rates but also enhances implantation of the embryo and allows earlier endometrium-embryo contact. Early contact between the embryo and the endometrium may increase the development potential of the embryo and optimize synchronization to further improve implantation efficiency.

Women using frozen embryo transfers to improve fertility may also benefit from embryo assisted hatching because of the egg wall hardening during the freezing process. Evidence suggests that freezing and thawing embryos promote hardening of the zona pellucida that could make it difficult for the embryo to break out of the wall.

There is a slight risk for complications from embryo assisted hatching, such as damage to the developing embryo, and an increased risk of the patient having identical twins.

What is Laser Assisted Hatching?

Over the past few years, the use of lasers in IVF laboratories has become more common but is something only expert fertility doctors should use to avoid damaging embryonic cells. Laser-assisted hatching releases just enough energy within the embryo’s egg wall to dissolve or vaporize a tiny opening in the wall. Although a few studies have suggested that laser assisted hatching seems to improve success rates of IVF, there is not enough evidence to indicate that laser assisted hatching is superior to using an acidic solution.

Finding the Right Fertility Center to Assist you with Embryo Assisted Hatching

Viera Fertility Center offers IVF and embryo assisted hatching for women who have had problems achieving embryo implantation. If you think you may be a good candidate for an assisted reproductive technology like IVF and assisted hatching, please call our center today to schedule a consultation appointment with Dr. Chamoun.