Assisted Hatching
IVF Fertility Treatment: Improving Embryos Chance Of Survival

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Assisted Hatching For IVF


What Is Assisted Hatching?
Who Needs It?
What Are The Risks?
Will It Improve My Chance Of Pregnancy?
How Much Does Assisted Hatching Cost?

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What Is Assisted Hatching?

It is a new technique used to help embryos implant in the womb. The majority of fertility clinics do hatching on at least some embryos during an IVF procedure. Assisting hatching is done on the morning of embryo transfer. The embryologist (doctor specializing in working with embryos), takes a needle with acid on the end and touches the shell on the embryo. This creates a hole which allows the embryo to break through the hard shell (called the zona pellucida) and attach to the womb.

Think of it like breaking the shell on a chicken egg so that the chicken can make its way out more easily. Embryos that are created in a lab are thought to have harder zonas than those created naturally, so this procedure gives them a head start in the hope they will break out and settle down in the womb. Many clinics are now performing Laser Assisted Hatching. Instead of using a needle, a laser is used to drill a hole in the zona. This method is faster, safer and simpler to perform.

Who Needs It?

Originally it was only done on embryos who had a thicker zona than normal, or on embryos from women aged over 37. Now some clinics do embryo hatching on most of their embryos. Although, some still only routinely perform it on some patients or embryos that were frozen and thawed.

What Are The Risks?

Current research indicates that this treatment does not raise the risk of birth defects in babies born using it. As only the outer shell of the embryo is affected by the procedure, the embryo remains untouched and unharmed. There are some indications it could raise the risk of having twins (though many of course consider this a benefit!).

Will It Improve My Chance Of Pregnancy?

According to NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, UK) guidelines:

Assisted hatching is not recommended because it has not been shown to improve pregnancy rates.’

But according to the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) in the U.S.:

"Success rates following the use of assisted hatching in different ART programs have varied considerably. Well-designed studies suggest that assisted hatching might best be used in patients over 38 years old or with multiple prior failed IVF cycles".

Many doctors are in agreement with SART, believing that assisted hatching could result in higher pregnancy rates in specific cases. These cases include:

1. Women over 37, because the zona around the embryo often appears to be thicker in this age group. In fact the UCSD reproductive clinic in California claim that it had improved the success rate in women between 35 and 40 so much that their results were exceeding patients under 35.
2. Women who have had two or more failed IVF cycles.
3. Where the embryos are of poor quality and need every assistance. This is usually because they have been frozen and thawed - stored from a previous IVF cycle (either the patient's own cycle, or another donor, see embryo donation).

Bottom Line: Will it improve your chance of having a baby? We don't know. Some claim assisted hatching has no benefits, even in older women, and recommend saving your money. Others claim it can increase your success rate, and if it does, it reduces the costs of having to go through additional IVF cycles. If your clinic suggests the treatment, ask them for their reasons before agreeing. You should probably at least fall into one of the above 3 suitable categories. Also, ask them for any written information they have on the procedure.

How Much Does Assisted Hatching Cost?

The cost of hatching varies between $400 and $1,000 - laser hatching is more expensive than manual (using a needle) hatching because of the technology involved. Of course, you will need to add all the other costs of IVF to this to get a complete picture of how much it will cost you take a baby home.

Study Results: Laser-Assisted Hatching of Embryos in Older Women After IVF

In 2002, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taipei carried out a study on a group of infertile women age over 37 who had numerous failed IVF cycles. The women were divided into two groups. In group 1, their embryos were transferred without laser assisted hatching (LAH), and group 2 the embryos were examined and treated with LAH. The results of the study failed to show any significant difference in the improved plantation or pregnancy rate between the two groups (0.6 percent improvement only). Researchers speculated that pregnancy outcome in older women is more likely to be influenced by a number of other factors including thickness of the womb lining (endometrial priming), egg (oocyte) quality, ovarian reserves and response to gonadotropins infertility drugs.

Related Article:
How can I improve my chance of IVF success?

  Related Articles on In Vitro Fertilization

For more IVF treatments, see the following:

Ovarian stimulation: Increasing your egg output!
Day 5 embryo transfer: Blastocyst transfer.
Egg retrieval: Follicle aspiration, how eggs are surgically removed.
Female body: Diagrams of the different organs.

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