What is Assisted Hatching?

Assisted hatching is a relatively new medical procedure designed to improve fertility rates in women. It's a unique additional procedure that is added to the process known as IVF, or in vitro fertilization. While in vitro fertilization consists of the fertilization of the egg with sperm in a petri dish (and the subsequent transplanting of the fertilized eggs into the woman's womb), assisted hatching takes the process a step further by helping the egg to attach to the uterine wall and continue to develop.

How Assisted Hatching Works

At the very first stages of its growth, the embryo is encased in a protective layer of proteins known as the zona pellicuda. This layer helps to protect the embryo against outside forces and other potentially lethal or harmful factors. Early on in the pregnancy, the embryo must "hatch" out of this layer in order to connect to the uterine wall, where it continues its full development. The assisted hatching procedure is designed to help the embryo to hatch.

On the fourth day of the embryo development, before the embryo has been implanted back into the woman's body, a highly skilled embryologist must fix the embryo in place on a petri dish with the help of a microscope. Using a tiny pipette, she then injects a minuscule amount of a particular type of acid next to the embryonic shell. This acid helps to dissolve the layer of the zona pellicuda, assisting the embryo to break free. Because of the intensely difficult nature of the position and the crucial timing of the procedure, this task is quite difficult to complete successfully.

Considerations about Assisted Hatching

Assisted hatching has success rates of roughly 50 percent, but only for a certain group of women. This group includes women who are older than 35 years old and who have had previous trouble with IVF techniques. Additionally, some women who have responded negatively to certain fertility drugs may be eligible for assisted hatching. Older and younger women both experience problems with assisted hatching that results in much lower success rates.

Risks of Assisted Hatching

While not a risk, technically, assisted hatching is known to dramatically increase the odds of having identical twins. Occasionally, conjoined twins will come about as a result of pregnancies assisted by this procedure as well. Other problems include the death or deforming of the embryo as a result of assisted hatching. Because of the hormone supplements that the woman must take in order to receive the hatched embryo successfully, side effects for the mother include mood swings, nausea, infection and high blood pressure.

If you think that assisted hatching may be right for you and your partner, speak with a fertility doctor today about the possibility of finding a trained embryologist to assist you with this procedure. If you do fall into the category of women for whom the program may be helpful, the odds are good that it will, in fact, help you.

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