In Vitro Fertilization – Assisted Hatching

Assisted hatching is a technique performed in the laboratory to help increase the chance of successful implantation. The assisted hatching technique is used after the IVF cycle in the laboratory setting in order to facilitate both the embryo’s hatching and also improve the embryo’s chances of implantation in the uterine wall.

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Assisted hatching focuses on manipulating a portion of the human zona pellucid (ZP), which is the thick membrane that surrounds the egg. In the normal reproductive cycle, a fertilized embryo travels through the fallopian tube and arrives at the uterus where it will break through or “hatch” out of the outer ZP coating before it implants into the uterine wall. The embryo must pass through the ZP membrane in order to attach itself to the uterine wall. If an embryo is unable to break through the membrane it will not be able to implant or continue developing and will die. Assisted hatching techniques help enable embryos to pass through this ZP membrane and increase the chances of it implanting correctly.

The procedure is relatively simple, and is done microscopically in the lab. Once an egg has been fertilized (through In Vitro Fertilization), the embryologist makes a small hole in an embryo’s ZP membrane so it is easier for the embryo to break through. There are several different ways that the embryologist can go about piercing the ZP, including an embryo-safe acidic solution which dissolves a portion of the membrane, or with laser technology. Our Santa Monica lab uses the most cutting edge micro laser.

Assisted hatching is most useful when a patient has had a failed IVF cycle where it appears there may be a problem with the embryos implanting once introduced to the uterus. It can also be used in cases involving older women (of advanced maternal age) or those with a high level of FSH whose eggs have a harder ZP membrane than those of younger women. Assisted hatching is also used when eggs or embryos have been frozen and thawed, or if embryos require a biopsy or PGD.

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