Here’s what you need to know about the different types of ovarian cysts, and how they could impact your chances of becoming pregnant.
Most women will experience an ovarian cyst at some point in their lives. These cysts are generally harmless and painless — they heal on their own and do not tend to affect fertility. However, there are some cysts that may lead to discomfort, impact the menstrual cycle, and cause women to have difficulties becoming pregnant.
The symptoms you experience depend on the type of ovarian cysts you have. In order to determine how this condition could be impacting your fertility, it’s first important to understand the different types of cysts, how they form, and how they can be treated.
What Is an Ovarian Cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that grows on the ovary. Cysts are common and often present no symptoms. Many of them heal on their own without causing any problems or requiring any treatment.
However, a large ovarian cyst can cause sharp pain in the lower abdomen, bloating, and a feeling of fullness or heaviness. If a cyst ruptures, it can lead to severe pelvic pain, fever, vomiting, and lightheadedness, among other symptoms.
Women with ovarian cysts (who are not trying to become pregnant) can take birth control pills to prevent new growths from developing. In the case of a large cyst that is causing discomfort, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it. This procedure can help eliminate pain as well as restore fertility. Patients with a family history of ovarian cancer may also want to undergo a CA-125 blood test to check for signs of cancer.
How Do Cysts Impact Fertility?
Ovarian cysts typically do not cause problems with fertility. The most common type of cyst, a functional cyst, is formed during a normal menstrual cycle. Follicles in the ovaries typically hold an egg, and if this egg is not released, the follicles may swell with fluid. Another type of functional cyst occurs after the egg is released and the sac reseals and fills with fluid. Both of these cysts are generally harmless and disappear on their own.
Other cysts that are not functional may cause further discomfort. For instance, a cystadenoma is a growth that appears on the surface of the ovary and fills with fluid or mucous. This type of cyst may require treatment, but it doesn’t tend to impact fertility. Similarly, dermoid cysts — which form from embryonic cells — are rarely cancerous and aren’t associated with infertility.
There are, however, some types of cysts that can affect fertility. Endometriomas are cysts caused by endometriosis, a condition that occurs when the cells that normally line your uterine walls grow on the outside of your uterus. These cysts can be extremely painful and debilitating. They may also lead to fertility problems — studies show that 30-50% of women with endometriosis experience infertility.
Another condition that can impact fertility is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which causes several small cysts to appear on the ovaries. It can lead to irregular periods, pelvic pain, and hormonal imbalances. As cysts resulting from PCOS are associated with irregular ovulation, they can contribute to fertility problems in some women.
Treating Ovarian Cysts
Catching a cyst early can help ensure that it does not cause problems in the future. That’s why it’s important to keep up with your regular pelvic examinations. If you think you may have a cyst, get in touch with your doctor and pay attention to any changes in your menstrual cycle.
Fortunately, many women who have been diagnosed with a cyst are able to have a healthy pregnancy. If you’re concerned about ovarian cysts impacting your fertility, set up an appointment at Advanced Fertility Center of Texas. Our doctors will discuss effective treatment options to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.