Diode lasers [? = 1480 nm] are used with in vitro fertilization to dissect the zona pellucida (shell) of pre-embryos. A focused laser beam is applied in vitro to form a channel or trench in the zona pellucida. The procedure is used to facilitate biopsy or as a promoter of embryo hatching. We present examples and measurements of zona pellucida ablation using animal models. In using the laser it is vital not to damage pre-embryo cells, e.g., by overheating. In order to define safe regimes we have derived some thermal side effects of zona pellucida removal. The temperature profile in the beam and vicinity is predicted as function of laser pulse duration and power. In a crossedbeam experiment a HeNe laser probe is used to detect the temperature-induced change in the refractive index of an aqueous solution, and estimate local thermal gradient. We find that the diode laser beam produces superheated water approaching 200°C on the beam axis. Thermal histories during and following the laser pulse are given for regions in the neighborhood of the beam. We conclude that an optimum regime exists with pulse duration ?5 ms and laser power ~100 mW.