Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Infertility?
Many women will develop ovarian cysts in their lifetime… but most won’t even know it.
Ovarian cysts are a common by-product of ovarian function, and most cysts are harmless. However, some types of cysts can affect your fertility, which can be alarming for women yet to conceive or actively trying to get pregnant.
Ovarian cysts can potentially cause infertility in some women. Some types of ovarian cysts, such as functional cysts, are benign and resolve on their own. However, other types of cysts, such as endometriomas or cystadenomas, can cause more significant problems with fertility. If a woman has ovarian cysts that are causing infertility, treatment options such as surgery or fertility drugs may be recommended.
What Is An Ovarian Cyst?
An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that develops on the ovary. Ovarian cysts are very common and can occur in women of all ages, but they are most commonly found in women who are of reproductive age.
Types Of Ovarian Cysts
There are several types of ovarian cysts, including:
Functional cysts: These cysts develop as a result of the normal function of the ovaries. There are two types of functional cysts: follicular cysts and luteal cysts. Follicular cysts occur when the follicle, which is the sac that holds the egg, does not rupture or release the egg. Luteal cysts develop when the corpus luteum, which is the structure left behind after the egg is released, fills with fluid.
Endometriomas: These cysts occur when endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, grows outside the uterus and on the ovaries. The tissue that grows on the ovaries (referred to as “chocolate cysts”) cannot shed during menstruation, which may cause pelvic pain, and could impact your ability to conceive.
Dermoid cysts: Ovarian dermoid cysts, also known as mature cystic teratomas, are benign (non-cancerous) tumors that occur in the ovaries. They are formed from the type of cells that make up the skin and hair and can contain various other tissues such as teeth, hair, and glandular tissues. Dermoid cysts are usually asymptomatic and are often discovered during routine gynecological exams or imaging tests.
Cystadenomas: Another type of benign ovarian tumor is cystadenomas, which form from cells that compose the outer layer of the ovary. Usually filled with a fluid, often clear or milky, they can range in size from very small to large and cyst-like.
Like dermoid cysts, cystadenomas are usually asymptomatic and are often discovered during routine exams or imaging tests. However, if they grow large enough, they can cause discomfort, pain, or pressure in the pelvic area.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) cysts: Women with PCOS have multiple small cysts on their ovaries, which can cause hormonal imbalances and affect fertility.
Cancerous cysts: Although rare, some ovarian cysts can be cancerous. These cysts are usually larger and harder than other types of cysts and may cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, and irregular periods.
Symptoms Of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts can cause a variety of symptoms, but many women may not experience any symptoms at all. The symptoms that are present will depend on the type, size, and location of the cyst. Some common symptoms of ovarian cysts include:
- Pelvic pain: A dull or sharp pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis can be a symptom of an ovarian cyst. This pain may be persistent or come and go, and can be worse during menstruation or intercourse.
- Abdominal swelling: Ovarian cysts can cause the abdomen to appear bloated or swollen.
- Irregular periods: Ovarian cysts can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, causing it to become irregular, heavy, or painful.
- Pressure or discomfort in the pelvic area: Large cysts can cause a sense of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area.
- Urinary or bowel problems: Ovarian cysts can press against the bladder or bowel, causing urinary frequency, constipation, or diarrhea.
How do cysts Impact Fertility?
The impact of cysts on fertility can vary depending on the type, size, and location of the cyst. Here are a few ways in which ovarian cysts can cause infertility:
Hormonal disruption: Some cysts, such as functional cysts, result from hormonal imbalances that disrupt normal ovary function and this ovarian cyst can cause infertility.
Ovarian torsion: Large cysts can cause the ovary to twist, cutting off its blood supply and potentially causing damage. Ovarian torsion is a surgical emergency and can lead to the loss of the affected ovary.
Physical obstruction: Large cysts can obstruct the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet, leading to infertility.
Endometriosis: Endometriomas, which are cysts formed from endometrial tissue, can cause infertility by causing damage to the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and other pelvic structures.
When To See A Doctor
You should see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms, which may indicate the presence of an ovarian cyst:
Pelvic pain: A dull or sharp pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis can be a symptom of an ovarian cyst. This pain may be persistent or come and go, and can be worse during menstruation or intercourse.
Abdominal swelling: Ovarian cysts can cause the abdomen to appear bloated or swollen.
Irregular periods: Ovarian cysts can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, causing it to become irregular, heavy, or painful.
Pressure or discomfort in the pelvic area: Large cysts can cause a sense of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area.
Urinary or bowel problems: Ovarian cysts can press against the bladder or bowel, causing urinary frequency, constipation, or diarrhea.
Treatment Options For Ovarian Cysts
Most ovarian cysts are harmless and resolve on their own. In fact, treatment is only necessary for about 8% of premenopausal women with ovarian cysts. After your doctor confirms you have ovarian cysts (typically, through a pelvic exam and/or ultrasound), they will provide recommendations for the treatment depending on the type, size, and symptoms the cyst may be causing, as well as the woman’s overall health and fertility plans.
Here are some common treatment options:
Watchful waiting: If the cyst is small and not causing any symptoms, your doctor may recommend simply monitoring it with regular ultrasound scans instead of treating it. In many cases, functional cysts resolve on their own within a few weeks and do not require treatment.
Medications: Hormonal medications, such as birth control pills, can help regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce the risk of cyst formation.
Laparoscopic surgery: For larger cysts that are causing symptoms or affecting fertility, surgery may be necessary. Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that involves making small incisions in the abdomen and removing the cyst.
Laparotomy: In some cases, a larger incision may be necessary in order to remove a cyst. This procedure, called a laparotomy, is usually only performed for cysts that are too large to be removed through laparoscopic surgery.
Ovarian cystectomy: An ovarian cystectomy may be necessary if the cyst is cancerous or exhibiting signs of cancer. In this procedure, the physician removes the cyst along with part or all of the ovary.
During ovarian drilling: a doctor makes small holes in the ovaries to reduce the number of cysts and enhance ovulation. This procedure serves as a treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can lead to infertility.”
It’s important to discuss your individual situation with your doctor, who can give you more information on the potential benefits and risks of each treatment option and help you make the best decision for your individual situation.
Cysts do not generally make it harder to get pregnant. But if the cysts are caused by an underlying condition like endometriosis, you might have problems with fertility. Endometriosis is a common condition that affects more than 1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the United States
Ovarian cysts have the potential to induce ovulation disorders, with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reporting that such dysfunctions contribute to 25% of infertility cases in women. The size and nature of cysts, particularly those arising from endometriosis or PCOS, can hinder a woman’s reproductive abilities.
Fortunately, most ovarian cysts do not affect your fertility. The only cysts that are frequently accompanied by fertility problems are endometriomas. There are other related conditions, however, like PCOS, that may result in further fertility problems.
The most common causes of ovarian cysts include Hormonal problems. Functional cysts usually go away on their own without treatment. They may be caused by hormonal problems or by drugs used to help you ovulate.
Symptoms of an ovarian cyst
pelvic pain – which can range from a dull, heavy sensation to sudden, severe, and sharp pain.
pain during sex.
difficulty emptying your bowels.
a frequent need to urinate.
heavy periods, irregular periods, or lighter periods than normal.
bloating and a swollen tummy.