3 Alternatives to Assisted Hatching

Assisted hatching is an optional process that can be part of a fertility treatment, particularly for women over the age of 37 who have had little success with other treatments. However, with the increased chance of successful pregnancy that hatching presents, also comes an increased risk of health complications as well as some ethical objections. You may instead wish to consider one of the following:

1. Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

If you don't like the idea of assisted hatching because of the heavy amount of scientific interference in the impregnation process, you may prefer gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) instead, which employs minimal scientific interference to the process. Unlike similar treatments, an embryo is not even created in a lab during GIFT. Instead, your fertility specialist will harvest some of your eggs and mix the eggs with your partner's or donor's sperm, then immediately implant the gamete (unfertilized egg/sperm mixture) into one of your fallopian tubes (the location where fertilization naturally takes place).

Although GIFT has a slightly lower success rate than some alternatives (GIFT results in pregnancy approximately one in four times), it is the closest such invasive fertility treatment that you can get to natural conception.

2. Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

If your objections to assisted hatching do not preclude the fact that you need as much assistance as possible to successfully become pregnant (which you may have discovered after other ineffective treatment), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) is a very similar process to GIFT that has a slightly higher chance of success. (About 29% of ZIFT procedures are successful.) The difference is that your fertility specialist will make sure the egg and sperm fertilize in a lab before the zygote (fertilized egg) is implanted into one of your fallopian tubes.

ZIFT will increase your chance of becoming pregnant successfully without adding too much more scientific interference. However, it's important to note that, unlike in GIFT, some "selection" will occur in which your fertility specialist will implant only the eggs that she deems the most likely to succeed--and may discard the rest.

3. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Often going hand in hand with assisted hatching, you can nonetheless try in vitro fertilization (IVF) on its own before you add hatching to the process. IVF is among the most successful fertility treatments, as around 31% of these procedures result in a successful pregnancy. Like ZIFT, IVF involves the fertilization of your eggs outside of the body in a laboratory. Your fertility specialist will then bypass the fallopian tubes and implant the embryo into your uterus, the place where a fertilized egg would naturally fall after fertilization in a fallopian tube.

This process cuts back a little on the chances for the pregnancy to fail, although it does involve more scientific interference in the process--but not as much as hatching does. However, there is still selection and discarding.

There is no singular fertility treatment that has no risk and a guaranteed success, so whether or not you choose to undergo assisted hatching, you may be making the right choice. What matters is what works best for you. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to explore all of your options before you make your decision.