Definition - What does Assisted Hatching mean?
Assisted hatching involves damaging the outer layer of a lab fertilized embryo to increase the odds of implantation during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. Assisted hatching occurs prior to the embryo transfer portion of the IVF process.
Assisted hatching may also be called laser assisted hatching.
FertilitySmarts explains Assisted Hatching
After an egg has been fertilized by sperm it becomes an embryo. In it’s first days of development the embryo is covered with a protective shell called the zona pellucida. In order to implant into the uterine wall, the embryo has to break through, or “hatch” from the zona pellucida. The theory is that assisted hatching might help the embryo to expand and implant in the uterine wall, leading to a successful pregnancy.
During an IVF procedure, an embryo develops in the lab where the egg was fertilized for a period of three to five days. On the third day the hatching procedure occurs. This can be done though a small beam of light that is used to break down and weaken the shell prior to the embryo being reintroduced to the uterus. Another method is to melt a small hole in the shell with an acid solution.
Assisted hatching is not recommended for everyone who undergoes IVF treatment. Women who have had previous failed IVF attempts and those with a poor prognosis for success may be candidates for the procedure. If preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is planned, assisted hatching can be helpful with a PGD biopsy.
Though rare, assisted hatching can damage the embryo and make it unusable.
As of 2016, laser assisted hatching is still an experimental procedure that is thought to potentially increase success in IVF procedures. However, there have been no conclusive studies to verify these findings, and the procedure carries a minor level of risk to the genetic structure of the embryo.