Assisted Embryo Hatching
Assisted embryo hatching may be used to improve embryo implantation and eventually live birth rates.
The cells that make up the early embryo are enclosed within a flexible membrane (shell) called the zona pellucida. During normal development, a portion of this membrane dissolves, allowing the embryonic cells to escape or “hatch" out of the shell. Only upon hatching can the embryonic cells implant within the wall of the uterus to form a pregnancy.
Assisted hatching is the laboratory technique in which an embryologist makes an artificial opening in the shell of the embryo. The hatching is usually performed on the day of transfer, prior to loading the embryo into the transfer catheter. The opening can be made by mechanical means (slicing with a needle or burning the shell with a laser) or chemical means by dissolving a small hole in the shell with a dilute acid solution.
Many clinics have incorporated artificial or “assisted hatching" into their treatment protocols because they believe it improves implantation rates, and ultimately, live birth rates.
Risks that may be associated with assisted hatching include damage to the embryo resulting in loss of embryonic cells, or destruction or death of the embryo. Artificial manipulation of the zygote may increase the rates of monozygotic (identical) twinning which are significantly more complicated pregnancies. There may be other risks not yet known.
IVF New England uses the most advanced techniques for assisted hatching.