Assisted hatching is a specialized laboratory technique that embryologists perform with pinpoint laser technology to create an opening in the zona pellucida, the glycoprotein layer that surrounds the embryo, in order to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) implantation rates with embryo transfer. This procedure helps an embryo remove its “shell” before they are transferred to the uterus to increase the chances that the embryo will attach itself to the uterine lining to achieve successful implantation and pregnancy.
Assisted hatching is commonly utilized in IVF cases when the female partner is over 38 years old, when a patient has previously had 2 unsuccessful embryo transfers, for embryo biopsy in preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A) and preimplantation genetic testing for monogenic/single gene defects (PGT-M) case, or in cases of frozen-thawed embryo transfer (FET).
During the assisted hatching procedure, embryos obtained from IVF or those that have been frozen and thawed are carefully assessed. The selected embryos for transfer are then placed in a specially designed air-buffered culture medium using precise micromanipulation tools. A small opening in the zona pellucida of each chosen embryo is created using either a specialized laser apparatus or, less commonly, chemical methods. After the assisted hatching procedure is completed, the embryos are returned to a standard culture medium and allowed to develop until they are ready for transfer into the uterus. Typically, assisted hatching is performed on the same day as the scheduled embryo transfer, although in certain clinical scenarios, it may be done several days prior to the transfer.
Patients can speak with their fertility specialist to determine if assisted hatching would be a procedure that can help with improving pregnancy.