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You may have heard the term “assisted hatching” and may even know someone who has had their embryos “hatched” before transfer.  So what does that mean exactly?

Naturally (and in the lab), before an embryo implants, it grows in cell number and becomes a blastocyst. As the early embryo expands, the protective shell surrounding it (the zona) thins as it becomes stretched. Eventually, it will hatch and look for somewhere to implant.

Assisted Hatching is when we use a laser to make a tiny hole in the zona (shell) surrounding the embryo to facilitate the hatching of the embryo. Usually this is done when we will be taking a biopsy of a small number of cells for genetic testing.

Some clinics offer assisted hatching routinely, others for certain patient groups.  PCRM does not hatch embryos routinely as there is no solid proof that hatching increases an embryos chance to implant (some studies show that it does, other studies show that it does not). However, it is a service that we offer if a patient requests it.

Picture 1 – the embryo expands to become a blastocyst, the zona becomes thinner

Assisted Hatching

Assisted Hatching

Picture 2 – the embryo hatches and is ready to implant

Picture 3 – shows an embryo which has been hatched using a laser