When you’re undergoing fertility treatment, you want to do everything you can to increase your chances of success.
Enough studies have been completed to let us know what steps can increase your possibility of pregnancy when going through IVF.
Even small changes to the process can impact your chances of a pregnancy.
Assisted hatching is an extra step in the IVF process that essentially helps the embryo hatch from an outer layer of cells so implantation is more likely to occur. Assisted hatching is usually done with a laser, and though it comes with risks, it can be a wonderful option for some patients.
It’s important to know if assisted hatching is right for you and if your doctor is comfortable with this procedure.
Different methods can be used to perform assisted hatching, so you should know the pros and cons of each.
Understanding Assisted Hatching
During the IVF process, an embryo is created. A hard outer shell-like layer called the zona pellucida surrounds the embryo.
Assisted hatching is when a doctor uses certain tools or chemicals to help the embryo break free from the shell by providing a small opening.
How Is Assisted Hatching Done?
There are different methods for performing assisted hatching. Your doctor will help you decide if the laser, chemical, or mechanical approach is best for you.
Assisted Laser Hatching
During assisted laser hatching, a strong light laser is used to put a small hole in the outer shell covering the embryo.
This helps the hatching process kickstart because the embryo already has a way out without the need to do it on its own. This process tends to be very precise.
Laser-Assisted Hatching Success Rates
Laser-assisted hatching can yield a 50% implantation rate. Since implantation is where many IVF treatments can go wrong, laser assistance can help a person who needs to get past that hurdle to get pregnant.
A chemical called Tyrode’s solution is placed on the outer shell of the embryo during chemical hatching.
Once the shell is compromised, the embryo is cleaned to make sure none of the chemical affects it.
A shell weakened by this chemical is easier for an embryo to break through when it’s time to break free and start implantation.
Mechanical Assisted Hatching
Mechanical-assisted hatching is probably the least precise method, but it is still used.
A small needle is used to puncture the outer shell, going in one side and out the other.
After both holes are created, rubbing occurs to continue to weaken and break the shell.
When Is Assisted Hatching Done?
Assisted hatching is usually done on the 3rd day of embryo development. This is considered the most opportune time, and assisted hatching can be done with frozen or fresh embryos.
Is Assisted Hatching Necessary?
Assisted hatching is not necessary in many cases. The procedure does come with risks, so it’s not something that needs to be done for every embryo.
Your doctor will take into account your personal history and health considerations before deciding how to move forward.
The less extra interventions when going through IVF, the better. Your embryo may be just fine getting out of the outer shell on its own since this is a natural process.
Assisted hatching is recommended when this might not occur, and it’s first necessary to access all of the risks of this procedure.
Does Assisted Hatching Increase Success?
Yes, assisted hatching can increase success rates when it comes to implantation and pregnancy.
It’s not necessary in most cases, but it can definitely help couples who have not been successful with previous IVF procedures.
Your doctor will likely try IVF without assisted hatching to see if that is successful. If not, your chances of getting pregnant could increase with assisted hatching.
Assisted Hatching Success Rates
With a 50% implantation rate, assisted hatching can help anyone who has trouble getting past this part of the IVF process.
If the issue is the embryo not being able to get out of the zona pellucida to try to implant, assisted hatching is a great choice.
Assisted Hatching Pros and Cons
Every procedure comes with risks, and assisted hatching is no exception.
Though the process is meant to encourage the embryo to hatch, it can actually mess with the natural process and keep an embryo from fully breaking out of the outer shell.
Assisted hatching can also lead to damage to the embryo. This means that even if the embryo did fully hatch, the damage would keep it from implanting.
Damage might also cause a pregnancy that wasn’t sustainable.
There’s also the increased risk of identical twins with hatching. Though this could be counted as a blessing, twin pregnancies are higher risk and tend to be more complicated.
Assisted Hatching and Twins
IVF treatment usually increases your chance of having fraternal twins since more than one embryo can be implanted at a time.
However, assisted hatching can actually increase your chance of having identical twins.
The reason is in the science. Identical twins are formed when one fertilized egg splits in two.
This is always possible, but assisted hatching can increase the risk of this happening since a chemical, laser, or needle is actually puncturing the area where the embryo resides.
If the embryo is affected in a way that causes it to split, you could end up with two babies instead of one.
Does Assisted Hatching Make Implantation Faster?
While it may not cause implantation to take place faster, assisted hatching can help implantation occur in situations where it otherwise might not.
How Long Does It Take for an Embryo To Implant With Assisted Hatching?
It usually takes 1-5 days after an embryo transfer for the embryo to implant. That is generally true whether assisted hatching is involved or not.
Is Assisted Hatching Recommended for All IVF Patients?
Assisted hatching is not recommended for all IVF patients. Though it can be tempting to want to try everything when you’re ready to get pregnant, many patients don’t actually need assisted hatching.
It’s not worth the risks if you don’t meet the necessary criteria to be considered a good candidate.
IVF patients who will most likely benefit from assisted hatching are:
- Women over 37 years old.
- Women whose outer shell, the zona pellucida, is known to be very thick.
- Women whose previous attempts at IVF have failed.
- Women whose embryos are known to have issues with fragmenting or not implanting.
Assisted Hatching Cost
If you need assisted hatching services, they likely won’t come for free. It can cost an additional $200-$700 to have doctors help your embryo break out of the shell.
Make sure you know whether assisted hatching is part of your IVF treatment costs or if you will be charged extra for it.
IVF treatment is a lot to handle, but advances in science have helped doctors figure out ways to give every woman the best chance of conceiving a child.
Assisted hatching could be an option that leads to the pregnancy you’ve been hoping for, so don’t hesitate to ask if you’re a good candidate for the procedure.
Kristy is the mother of four, including identical twins. With a background in education and research, she is constantly learning more about parenting and raising multiples. When she has spare time, she enjoys hiking into the woods with a great book to take a break.