Making The Choice For Assisted Hatching

While most people know that in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a type of fertility treatment that helps women and couples conceive, not as much is known about the additional options available with the process. As a baseline, IVF focuses on fertilizing an egg with sperm outside of the womb and then later implanting the embryo in the womb. The egg and sperm can be harvested from a couple or may be given by donors. Similarly, insemination can either occur in the patient or a surrogate. But an additional option to improve implantation success ahead of reinserting the embryo is to opt for hatching.

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Understanding implantation

Many assume that once an embryo is formed, the cell group automatically attaches to a woman’s uterus. However, an extra step is involved. When an embryo develops, a hard outer layer of cells known as the zona pellucida is formed. This outer layer is essential to prevent other sperm from attempting to interact with a fertilized egg and to avoid implantation in the fallopian tubes, also known as an ectopic pregnancy. Often referred to as a shell, the embryo must first break free of the shell before the cells can implant and continue a successful pregnancy.

Assisted hatching explained

Assisted hatching is a process where a fertility specialist will create a small crack, usually with a laser, in the zona pellucida. Essentially, the fertility clinic helps the embryo to hatch, to further support implantation. Current research supports the belief that assisted hatching can facilitate implantation and boost pregnancy rates in some patients. The process can be done on both fresh and previously frozen embryos.

Who is a good candidate for assisted hatching?

While beneficial, assisted hatching isn’t recommended for every IVF patient. In particular, women ages 37 and older and individuals who previously had IVF failure are strong candidates. Similarly, women with other underlying fertility issues with a poor conception prognosis are often considered most likely to benefit.

Does assisted hatching have risks?

While IVF coupled with assisted hatching has higher success rates than regular IVF, the procedure does pose some risks. For example, any time an embryo is manipulated, the risk of lethal damage is always possible. And in some cases, the process can throw off an embryo’s natural transition to hatch, resulting in an unsuccessful pregnancy. But often, the most likely risk is twinning, which is already a natural risk associated with IVF.

Deciding if assisted hatching is the right choice

People considering IVF should understand that not every individual or couple will benefit from additional fertility interventions like assisted hatching. Usually, only women older than 37 with poor embryo quality or a history of unsuccessful IVF cycles should be considered. Likewise, understanding potential risks associated with the procedure is essential. Women or couples considering assisted hatching should speak with a fertility specialist for more information.

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