Assisted laser hatching is done during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment to increase the chances of becoming pregnant. The embryo is covered with a protective layer, known as the zona pellucida, and in order for the embryo to attach to the uterus, it must break through the protective layer. Assisted laser hatching is the procedure in which a small hole is made in the covering so the embryo has an easier time attaching to the uterus.
The use of a laser during the procedure reduces many risks found in older methods, which often damaged the embryo. Today, assisted laser hatching is done safely and effectively in a short amount of time. This lab technique helps other fertility procedures, such as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICS) and in vitro fertilization.
During IVF, patients are given fertility medications to increase the quantity of eggs in a woman’s cycle. Then, the eggs are extracted and combined with sperm until they become fertilized to create embryos. It is in this process that the outer layer of the embryo, known as the zona pellucida, hardens, as it is designed to keep the cells together. In order to attach to the uterine lining, the embryo must break out of the protective cover – this process usually takes between two and three days after an embryo transfer in the IVF process. When the egg and sperm is combined in a laboratory, the protective shell often becomes harder at a faster rate than when it takes places naturally, making it harder to attach to the uterus.
During an assister laser hatching, a laser beam is focused on the embryo’s protective cover to make a small opening. This laboratory treatment is quick, safe and efficient at encouraging the embryo escape and implant into the uterine lining.
The precise laser beam is done through predetermined programming to ensure that operator skill is not the determining factor as to whether or not the small hole is ideally sized. The opening in the zona pellucida is between 10 and 20 microns.
Once the assisted laser hatching takes place, the next step of the process is Embryo Transfer.
Benefits of Assisted Laser Hatching
There are many benefits to the assisted laser hatching procedure, including:
Safety – A precise laser beam is quick and simple compared to previous methods, which used an acidic formula to create the hole in the zona pellucida. Acidic formulas are often dangerous to the embryo.
Accurate – The pre-programmed laser beam ensures that operator skill does not play a part in the success of the small hole. The rate of success is much higher using laser technology, and assisted laser hatching is usually recommended when using cryopreserved embryos to increase success rates even further.
Patients who benefit from this procedure include:
Embryos with a thick protective coating (day 3)
Previous failed ICSI/IVF treatments
Women older than 37 years
Patients with a high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) level
Costs of Assisted Laser Hatching
In the United States, assisted laser hatching costs between $400 and $1,000 USD, in addition to accrued costs during each IVF cycle. The laser method is more expensive than older options, but is safer and more accurate. Assisted laser hatching procedures in foreign destinations, such as India, South America and Europe offer different, and often lower, costs.
Who performs Assisted Laser Hatching Procedures?
Infertility experts, or obstetricians and gynecologists are trained to implement the initial treatments of infertility treatments. Such a physician or fertility specialist should be board certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Couples should find specialists who are a member of endocrinologist organizations or technologies. As such, they have completed medical school programs, followed by four years of residency training in obstetrics and gynecology, and then, two to three years of training in fertility within an approved program that results in board certification.
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A failure to become pregnant is cause for concern for thousands of couples. Undergoing physical exams and fertility workups by a health care provider may eventually lead to fertility treatments. In some cases, uterine malformations, as well as conditions like endometriosis, adhesions, and fibroids may make it difficult for couples to conceive. Lack of ability to conceive is not just a feminine problem, but may affect males as well. A large number of fertility treatments are available to treat a wide variety of causes and issues that result in lack of conception.