Getting A Leg Up With Embryo Hatching

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most widely used and successful infertility treatments in the world. The process has evolved since the first successful IVF baby in 1978. Now, there are different techniques that clinics use within the IVF process, like assisted hatching. If a clinic mentions assisted hatching during IVF, chances are the patient is a candidate for the procedure. But what is assisted hatching exactly? And are there any risks?

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The hatching advantage

For a successful pregnancy, a sperm must fertilize an egg or oocyte released by the ovaries. The resulting embryo created must hatch a few days before implanting in the endometrium. The egg is surrounded by proteins called zona pellucida, which protects the egg at almost every stage. These proteins deteriorate, and the embryo hatches a few days before implantation. An IVF clinic can speed up this process by manually cracking the shell. The goal is to help with implantation and offset any issues with the zona pellucida. This, in turn, may increase the chances of pregnancy.

Benefits and availability

Assisted hatching has been shown in some studies to increase the chances of IVF. The process is also useful for additional tests like preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. There’s a common question that arises with assisted hatching. If assisted hatching can create an advantage, why aren’t all IVF procedures performed this way? Most persons undergoing IVF do not need assisted hatching. The embryo will respond and hatch naturally. However, there are some situations where a patient will be a great candidate.

Is your infertility unexplained?

A large subset of infertile patients has unexplained infertility. With unexplained infertility, there is no apparent health reason from both parties causing infertility. While IVF helps unexplained infertility, there are some cases where the procedure fails on multiple cycles. In this situation, doctors will require assisted hatching from the clinic to increase the chances of pregnancy.

A tough outer shell

In some cases, the zona pellucida shell is harder than usual. The hard outer shell could prevent proper hatching, accounting for failed pregnancies. Women with increased FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone levels tend to have harder zona pellucida shells. This thick lining may prevent the embryo from breaking through to implant in the uterine wall.

Age plays a factor

With IVF, age plays a factor in the success of the procedure. In terms of a natural pregnancy, a woman’s chances decrease significantly, particularly over age 35. In fact, women have a 5% chance of a successful pregnancy from age 40. Assisted hatching may be effective for women over age 37. The process can eliminate any possibility of a failed pregnancy due to poor hatching.

What are the risks?

With any procedure, there are some risks involved. Making such changes to the embryo is no exception. There is a chance the embryo gets damaged during assisted hatching, which is done in several ways, including lasers, needles, or chemicals. The damaged embryo will result in a failed pregnancy. And although the risks are low, some women may develop twins from one egg and sperm. Most cases of assisted hatching are successful, and most doctors consider the process a safe one.

Get a headstart with hatching

Assisted hatching can increase the effectiveness of IVF. The technique is not widely used but can play an advantage in certain situations. Older women with multiple failed IVF cycles are ideal candidates and may benefit from the procedure. Speak with the fertility clinic to find out if the technique is available.

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