Among the many Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), IVF or In Vitro Fertilization is among the most favored option for many couples. Success rates of IVF are at par with any other reproduction alternatives, and there is an increasing presence of IVF clinics with good infrastructure. However, IVF is seldom used in its purest form, i.e. it is usually combined with other types of ART to ensure that the chances of successful fertilization, embryo preparation and embryo implantation are raised. This might mean some additional costs for the IVF couple, but it makes the IVF treatment more effective.
Treatments commonly combined with In Vitro Fertilization include:
Once the mature eggs or oocytes have been retrieved from the female, they are systematically fertilized with the tested sperm sample that is sourced from the male partner. It should be noted that most IVF clinics emphasize fertilizing a number of oocytes at one time. This ensures a steady supply of embryos that might be needed in the near future.
The need for more than one embryo is precipitated by the fact that many embryos are rejected due to improper fertilization. Further, many of embryos might be rejected by the uterus of the female. Thus, the IVF clinic is supposed to maintain a small back-up of healthy embryos. Again, this ensures that the eggs will not have to be repeatedly retrieved from the female, which can be a bit uncomforting for some IVF females.
The prepared embryos are then graded systematically. The grading defines the development stage through which the embryonic cells are progressing. This is vital since most IVF clinics prefer to implant embryos at the blastocyst state. Conventionally, embryos are graded across four stages. The IVF couple can even ask the IVF technician to share the images of developing embryos to help them understand the procedure.
This procedure is usually put forth as an option for IVF couples. However, it may be seriously recommended to those with a history of IVF failures. Assisted hatching is usually pursued once the Embryo Grading is completed. Assisted hatching is a high-precision technique and it is not necessary that all the IVF clinics have the technicians or equipment needed for this procedure.
Assisted Hatching is essentially a procedure of uncovering the embryo. The graded embryos have an outer protein layer, called Zona Pellicuda. Though this protein layer is useful for protecting the embryo during the blastocyst stage, it has to be shed if the embryo wants to successfully attach to the uterine tissue.
In embryos where the Zona Pellicuda is very thick, the embryo can suffocate itself and lose its ability to hatch. Thus, assisted hatching is done, i.e. the outer layer of embryo is artificially accessed and a microscopic hole is made, allowing the embryo to break its outer lining. The outer layer of embryos is dissolved using an enzymatic solution. Assisted hatching does not pose any substantial risk to the embryos. Assisted hatching is particularly helpful for women:
- Above the age of 37 years seeking IVF treatment
- With a history of FSH levels being elevated in their recent menstrual history
- With embryo grading indicating faster-than-normal progression of embryos towards the blastocyst stage