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Assisted hatching (AH) is a micromanipulation technique that involves making a small hole in the egg’s glycoprotein layer (zona pellucida), making it easier for the embryonic cells to hatch out, increasing the embryo’s chances of successfully implanting in the uterus and creating a viable pregnancy.

After fertilization the embryo remains in a protective protein shell for several days, surrounding it and protecting the dividing cells from infection for the first few days. As soon as the embryo makes its way to the uterus, the growing bundle of cells naturally breaks out of the shell, allowing the embryo to implant in the endometrium.

A laser is often used to make several small holes in the surface of the embryo, helping this process along and breaking the shell (zona pellucida). The laser is faster, gentler and more precise than a mechanical or chemical interference. The procedure is performed in the embryological laboratory on the fourth day of the culture, when the embryo (blastocyst) reaches the compact stage. Assisted hatching does not harm embryos in any way and has no impact on their continued development.

Suitable candidates for assisted hatching

This method is used for embryos with a thick zona pellucida, where previous attempts at transferring embryos have been unsuccessful, where the woman has increased FSH levels, and is recommended for women attempting to conceive later in life (35 or more). Assisted hatching can also be performed at the patient’s request. At our clinic we perform assisted hatching on all embryos available for a particular patient, since it makes it easier for them to “catch” in the uterus.