Fertility Treatments and the Assisted Hatching Procedure

If you are struggling with infertility, your fertility specialist may recommend a technique known as assisted hatching as part of your IVF treatment plan. Assisted hatching is a relatively new technique designed to encourage hatching of the embryo by breaking into the delicate protective layer. This technique requires a very skilled fertility specialist in order to be performed successfully, and is best suited for patients that meet certain criteria.
Here’s a close look at how the assisted hatching procedure works, and if you may be a good candidate for this type of fertility treatment:

How the Assisted Hatching Procedure Works

Assisted hatching is performed using a very fine, hollow needle. The embryo is extracted and held in place using a very small pipette, and the needle is used to break down the protective layer around the embryo (the zona pellucid). The embryo is then washed and left in an incubator. The embryo transfer procedure, also known as in vitro fertilization, is performed when the hatching procedure is complete and the embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus.

Best Candidates for Assisted Hatching

Assisted hatching is now becoming a common procedure for couples who have difficulty conceiving, and it can be particularly beneficial to women who:
  • Are over 37 years of age
  • Have elevated levels of FSH on the third day of their menstrual cycle
  • Have experienced failed IVF cycles
  • Have an embryo with a very thick protective layer
  • Have poor quality embryos as a result of excessive fragmentation
  • Produce very few embryos during each menstrual cycle

Assisted Hatching: Things to Consider

While the assisted hatching procedure presents several benefits, there are some risks involved with the procedure.
There is a risk that the micromanipulation techniques used in the assisted hatching procedure can cause the embryo to split, which would result in conjoined twins or a newborn with physical deformities.
Other risks involved include fetal complications, damage to the embryo which could result in death of the fetus, and complications for the mother including infection, high blood pressure and nausea. Most women are also required to take steroids and antibiotics during the procedure, which has its own set of side effects.
Still, pregnancy rates for in vitro fertilization procedures with assisted hatching have shown to be higher than for in vitro fertilization procedures without hatching. Pregnancy rates for women between the ages of 35 and 39 can be as high as 49%, and women who are over the age of 40 also enjoy better opportunities for conception. Overall, the majority of women experience a higher success rate of embryo implantation with this procedure, and are able to bring a baby to term.
Many couples learn about the assisted hatching procedure during the initial consultation with the fertility specialist.
Learn more about infertility treatments in our information guide, or consult with a fertility specialist in your area to find out if you may be a good candidate for the assisted hatching procedure, and what risks and benefits are associated with this innovative technique.