Carrying a pregnancy to term is not as easy as some believe. For one thing, as many as one-half of all pregnancies end before a woman even knows she is pregnant. And, roughly 20 percent of all known pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, that is the medical term for miscarriage, within the first trimester. For the thousands of couples struggling to overcome fertility challenges, it feels like the deck is stacked against them. Modern advanced assisted reproductive technology (ART) and treatments may be the solution to achieving a successful pregnancy.
One ART technique offered to patients who have experienced numerous miscarriages and/or failed IVF attempts is embryo assisted hatching. Assisted hatching gives embryos additional support during the journey toward successful uterine implantation.
What is embryo assisted hatching (AH)?
To clearly understand AH, you must first understand the natural hatching. An embryo is formed when a single sperm penetrates the protective member surrounding the egg called the zona pellucida layer. Immediately after fertilization, the outer shell hardens.
This natural hardening protects the developing zygote as it makes its journey toward the nesting spot in the uterine wall lining. A successful implantation in the uterus requires the shell to soften and break away before the blastocyst reaches its final destination. Not all fertilized eggs lose their shell naturally, preventing attachment and further development. AH, is a laboratory process used with IFV, embryo transfers and ICSI that encourages the zona pellucida layer to break away from the embryo. AH is also used in the during the preimplantation diagnosis phase to allow lab technicians to extra cells for genetic testing.
How is embryo assisted hatching performed?
Assisted hatching is a lab process performed by skilled technicians. There are several different techniques, and the outcomes differ depending on the quality of the embryo and the skill of the technician in the lab.
Mechanical hatching involves placing a micro-thin needle just under the outer edge of the zona pellucida layer and bringing the needle back up a short distance away, similar to taking a stitch when sewing in a hem. The lab technician then gently rubs the area between the two puncture holes until the protective shell forms a noticeable tear. It is difficult to control the tear size during this procedure, which means the shell could break away too soon during the journey.
Chemical hatching involves using Tyrode’s acid to weaken the embryo shell until a breach occurs. Excess acid is removed immediately after the shell is breached to prevent damage to the developing embryo. Chemical hatching is the preferred technique at many fertility clinics with high IVF success rates who offer assisted hatching technology to their patients.
Laser-assisted hatching is very much like mechanical hatching, except the lab technician uses precision lasers for puncturing, which empowers the technician to better control the size of the opening. Many fertility experts and board-certified fertility specialists agree that laser-assisted techniques are the safest, and perhaps the most efficient, lab processes for hatching assistance.
Is Embryo Assisted Hatching Right for You? Ask the Fertility Experts at the Viera Fertility Clinic in Viera, FL
Hatching assistance is typically offered to women and couples who have are older, have experienced multiple spontaneous abortions or undergo unsuccessful IFV and ICSI protocol in the past. Numerous studies suggest there is an increased chance of twinning with assisted hatching, but not significantly higher than IFV or ICSI interventions. Another known risk is lethal damage, which may occur in the lab or during the transfer process. While using state-of-the-art equipment and highly-skilled lab technicians reduces risk, no fertility treatment available today guarantees a successful pregnancy.
Deciding whether to add embryo hatching assistance to an IFV treatment protocol is a personal decision The board-certified specialists and counselors at Viera Fertility Clinic can help you review all available options, and make wise decisions based on your medical history, overall health, and personal preferences. If you have questions about any of our fertility treatments or technology, please call today to talk with a patient services counselor.