Laser-Assisted Hatching (LAH)
If you have undergone IVF treatment, then probably you know that a fertilized egg cannot guarantee you a pregnancy. When the embryo is transferred to a woman’s uterus it needs to implant on the wall of the uterus to achieve a successful pregnancy. Sometimes the embryo fails to hatch and implant, resulting in IVF failure.
Laser-assisted hatching is an advanced technology used along with IVF treatment to increase the rate of successful implantation of the embryo. If you are experiencing IVF failure due to unexplained reasons or poor prognosis with IVF treatment, you will be directed to laser-assisted hatching. The goal of LAH is to overcome all the odds that are preventing implantation or successful pregnancy.
What is Laser-Assisted Hatching Treatment?
During the IVF procedure, fertilized eggs are kept in the lab for 2 to 5 days, allowing them to divide and develop into an embryo. A healthy embryo is then placed in a woman’s uterus to achieve pregnancy. During this process of development, the embryo gets surrounded by a protective shell called zona pellucida. For implantation to happen, this protective shell breaks out naturally. But in some cases, the outer layer of the embryo hardens, making it difficult to hatch and implant. It becomes one of the reasons for infertility in women.
In laser-assisted hatching, a small crack is created before inserting the embryo in your uterus in the hope that this hatching helps in implantation of the embryo. This procedure helps in successful implantation leading to pregnancy.
When is LAH Recommended?
If you are undergoing IVF, that does not mean you will be recommended LAH. Experts believe that LAH might bring successful pregnancy in certain types of couples. After analyzing all your medical records and infertility history, your fertility doctor can determine if LAH can help you.
Generally, in the following conditions, assisted hatching may improve the pregnancy rate.
• If you have experienced two or more failed IVF cycles.
• If you have increased FSH level
• The quality of your embryo is poor.
• When your age is 38 or older
Older women have a tendency to produce eggs with thick zona pellucida or outer shell. The same problem is seen in women with a high level of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In such cases, the egg will not hatch and fails to attach to the womb. Assisted hatching can be beneficial in all these infertility issues.
Also, studies show that frozen or thawed embryos have hard zona pellucida making it difficult to hatch and implant. Laser-assisted hatching will create a gap in the outer shell, making it easy for the embryo to implant.
It is essential to now that hatching is a natural process and in most IVF cases embryo implants in the womb. Failure to hatch is a rare cause of infertility hence might need a modern approach. Also, it is important to discuss with your fertility doctor about the pros and cons of undergoing LAH treatment in your case. Also, you need to consider the additional cost of this procedure.
Laser-Assisted Hatching Technique
LAH procedure is carried out on the 3rd day after the IVF cycle when the embryo is still in the lab. In this technique, a specialized laser is used to create a breach in zona pellucida. Laser technology allows a more controlled approach and is the safest and most effective technique. Though making a small crack in the zona pellucida sounds like a simple technique, it involves precise procedures and a skilled technician to perform it. The embryology lab needs to have specialized instruments to perform this advanced technology. The whole process is fairly quick and takes only a few seconds.
In this process, laser shots are used that softens the zona pellucida, which helps to create an opening. The laser will not come in direct contact with the embryo and is performed with utmost delicacy and precision. This procedure ensures the safety of the embryo.
Advantages of LAH
When Laser-assisted hatching is compared with other assisted hatching procedures, it is more accurate. LAH procedure does not involve manual handling of the embryo; hence there are fewer chances of any damage. Accuracy of laser is predetermined in the program, which ensures the safety of the embryo. Laser-assisted hatching boosts the success rate of pregnancy.
Risks Associated with LAH
Risk is similar to other IVF or ICSI procedures. Laser-assisted hatching interferes with embryos natural hatching process; hence it involves a few risks. One of the possible risks is embryo might get lethally injured. This can happen before the embryo transfer or after. In any case, pregnancy will not occur. Another risk is, even after LAH, the embryo might fail to hatch completely.
LAH can also result in multiple pregnancies. Generally, IVF is associated with multiple pregnancies, and LAH procedure increases this risk further. This leads to high-risk pregnancies but is seen in less than 1% cases.
If you are wondering that LAH might result in congenital defects in babies, this is not true. Many studies have been conducted, which revealed that the LAH procedure does not cause any congenital disability.
Does LAH increase IVF success rate?
Laser-assisted hatching increases the chances of successful implantation and pregnancy. If you are facing IVF failure, there is a chance of achieving success through assisted hatching. Discuss with your fertility doctor to make the right decision.
As explained above the hatching is a mandatory process needed for pregnancy. But due to some reason, if embryo fails to implant, LAH becomes the treatment of choice. In couples who had failed IVF cycle, this LAH procedure holds a chance to get a positive pregnancy. Performed by an experienced fertility doctor or embryologist, laser-assisted hatching may help you to conceive overcoming the problem of thick shell embryos. It can increase the chances of implantation, pregnancy, and birth rates. Using the LAH technique with IVF has resulted in significant success in older couples and in IVF failure cases. It has also increased pregnancy rates in cryopreserved embryos.