Laser-assisted hatching is a scientific IVF technique that can make it easier for the embryo to “hatch” or breakthrough its outer layer or “shell” (a membrane also known as the zona pellucida) by creating an opening. In some situations, this layer is abnormally thick and/or hardened with the freezing and thawing process among the contributing factors. The less difficulty the embryo has in hatching, the better its chance of attaching or implanting into the wall of the uterus. Pregnancy cannot occur unless the embryo hatches and implants, and laser-assisted hatching can play a key role in achieving these crucial steps.
The procedure involves an embryologist sending a brief, strong light beam, under a microscope, to create a gap in the shell through which the embryo can come out. This is usually done three days after fertilisation has occurred during an IVF or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) cycle, which is when the embryo has begun to cleave (divide). It takes only a few seconds and does not harm the embryo. The embryo is then transferred back into the patient’s uterus to attach itself to the lining and continue growing.