For the first 5 to 7 days of the embryo developing, it is surrounded and protected by an outer shell called the Zona Pellucida. Normally when the embryo reaches the uterus, this zona partially dissolves resulting in the embryo hatching out, allowing it to implant in the uterus.
It is often thought that infertility might be caused by hardening of the zona, which makes it difficult for the embryo to hatch and implant.
Assisted Hatching (AH) is a laboratory procedure performed by experienced embryologists using chemical or laser techniques. A small hole is created in the zona pellucida on those embryos that have been chosen for transfer. A hole is made in the “shell” to allow the embryos to emerge.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, AH may be indicated for women with:
- Advanced maternal age (older than 38)
- Two or more failed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycles
- Poor embryo quality, ie thickening of the zona pellucida
Because assisted hatching is a specialized procedure, it is important to talk this over with your fertility specialist.