The most common reason for an IVF cycle to fail to produce a successful pregnancy is because the embryos don’t implant in the uterus. There are many reasons why this might happen, but most likely there is something wrong with the embryo. The embryo could also have difficulty breaking through its outer protein coating, called the zona pellucida, from which it must hatch before it can implant into the uterus. Assisted Hatching (AHA) is a procedure to help an embryo release from the zona pellucida.

Who should consider AHA?

Assisted Hatching has been suggested for infertile couples if:

  • The women is 38 years or older;
  • The woman has a high FSH level;
  • The woman has poor egg quality;
  • They have had poor embryo quality
  • They have failed to become pregnant in prior IVF cycles;
  • They are using frozen-thawed embryos in a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycle

How is it done?

Assisted Hatching is performed by holding the embryo with a special pipette and using either an acidic solution to dissolve a small hole in the zona pellucida or a laser to make a similar small hole. The embryo is then washed and placed back in culture in the incubator for a short time prior to embryo transfer.

How successful is AHA?

Studies, to date, have not proven the effectiveness of Assisted Hatching as it has not lead to higher delivery rates. At Fertility Centers of New England, we have noted higher delivery rates using Assisted Hatching in our FET cycles where embryos were frozen on Day 3 following egg retrieval. Therefore, we only suggest Assisted Hatching in these cases.

Many centers advocating Assisted Hatching also use immunosuppressive steroids as part of their treatment protocol. Because these medications have the potential to have many detrimental adverse side effects, the Fertility Centers of New England do not use them.

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