When an embryo develops to the point that it is ready to implant in the lining of the uterus, it must hatch out of its protective coating. This coating, or shell, is called the zona pellucida. There is some evidence that suggests that the zona may become abnormally thickened in some individuals as a result of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). If the zona is abnormally thickened, it may make it more difficult for the embryo to “hatch out” at the appropriate time.
Assisted hatching is a procedure performed in the IVF laboratory using a low-power laser. A very small defect is made in the zona just prior to the embryo transfer. Assisted hatching is not routinely performed on all embryos – many embryos are high enough quality that they don’t require it.
Indications for assisted hatching include:
- Woman age 38 or older
- Prior failed IVF procedure(s)
- Embryos have been cryopreserved
- An embryo, on microscopic assessment, appears to have an abnormally thickened zona