Assisted Hatching: Above and Beyond IVF
Many couples in the United States struggle with infertility. There are a lot of ways to overcome that and have a baby. One of the main ways to become pregnant when fertility is an issue is through in vitro fertilization with assisted hatching.
Often, if there is a question of maternal age or embryo strength, the embryologist will recommend assisted hatching. Read on to learn what this is and how it helps the IVF process.
Understanding the IVF Process
To understand the process of assisted hatching, you must first understand the process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
In brief, IVF is the process of harvesting the female partner’s eggs and the male partner’s sperm for fertilization outside the woman’s body. Then they implant the embryo(s) into the woman’s uterus.
Stage One: Injections to Grow Eggs
In this first step, doctors give the female partner FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and/or LH (Luteinizing Hormone) to cause her ovaries to produce multiple eggs.
She also needs a medicine to prevent ovulation. The doctors want the eggs to stay inside the ovaries until it is time for retrieval.
Normally a woman’s body only produces one egg to maturity each month, from one ovary or the other. The goal with this step is to have both ovaries produce as many mature eggs as they can, within reason.
According to THIS article at livescience.com, 15 eggs is the “magic number” to aim for. This averages out to 7 or 8 eggs from each ovary. Harvesting 15 eggs seems to give the highest chances of a successful pregnancy.
Stage Two: Maturation and Retrieval of Eggs
Just before the doctor goes in to get the eggs, they give the woman medication to cause the eggs to mature. Once this is done, they harvest the eggs from the ovaries.
Retrieval will occur at the fertility clinic or doctor’s office about 36 hours after the last medication injection. They perform this procedure by viewing the ovaries through ultrasound or laparoscopy.
An embryologist inserts a tiny needle into the follicles of the ovaries, and they draw the eggs out through a gentle suction mechanism. Then they place the eggs in a nutritive solution to incubate.
The embryologist then mixes the healthy, mature eggs with the male partner’s sperm in one of two ways. The first way, they place the healthy sperm and mature eggs together and leave them to incubate overnight.
Alternatively, the expert places one sperm inside each egg with a needle. This way guarantees fertilization. It is often used if there is a question of sperm quality or number.
After the eggs are retrieved, the doctor gives the woman progesterone injections to take at home. This prepares the uterine lining for the implantation procedure.
Stage Three: Genetic Testing and Implantation of Healthy Embryo(s)
In the beginning of this stage, each embryo undergoes genetic testing to ensure it is healthy and will develop normally. This happens before they implant the embryo(s) into the woman’s uterus. Also during this stage, Assisted Hatching is done if necessary.
About 5-6 days after fertilization, an embryo hatches out of its protective outer layer membrane. Sometimes if a woman is older or if there is a question about embryo ability, the embryologist performs a procedure called assisted hatching.
In this procedure, the outer layer (called the zona pellucida) of the embryo is punctured or perforated. This is done very carefully in one of two different ways.
In the first method, they use a needle containing a small amount of an acidic mixture that melts away the layer so that the embryo can hatch and implant itself into the uterus. Here is a video of this procedure.
The second way is with use of a laser. A very fine laser is focused on the outer membrane of the uterus and is pulsed until the layer breaks open. I have a video of this one as well.
Stage Four: Implantation and (Hopefully!) Pregnancy
Once the embryo(s) are hatched, they are implanted into the woman’s uterus using a syringe containing the embryo(s) and a long catheter inserted into the uterus.
One Full Cycle of IVF
That’s it. The entire process takes about 2 weeks from first injection to pregnancy test. It is said that the initial injections are not too bad, but the growing eggs in your ovaries make you uncomfortable.
I have heard women say they feel bloated, experience cramping, nausea, and pain in their lower abdomen and back.
The progesterone injections tend to be more difficult to handle because progesterone is a thicker substance, so it stings going in. Most women who have undergone IVF say it is definitely worth the struggle.
If you don’t become pregnant with your first IVF cycle, most fertility specialists recommend you try again after a full menstrual cycle (about 6 weeks total). Some doctors prefer that you wait up to 3 months for your hormones to get back to normal and your ovaries to heal.
To read more about IVF success rates, check out our other blog HERE.
What If You’re Not Ready for IVF?
There are many other fertility solutions you can try. Clean eating, exercise, and stress relief are three of the easiest ways to solve fertility issues, assuming your physical and/or mental health are the problems.
There are many herbs on the market that are specifically for treating infertility. Bioterra Herbs’ Female Fertility supplement contains with a blend of herbs from traditional Chinese medicine. They have been used for centuries to treat fertility issues in women.
It’s available at CVS Pharmacy!!
We also have a companion supplement, Male Fertility, which you can learn about by clicking on the image below.
To learn more about the causes of infertility, check out our blog HERE.
I wish you luck in your fertility journey!