Many premenopausal women develop ovarian cysts that emerge during the ovulation cycle. These non-cancerous, fluid-filled sacs rarely cause symptoms and often disappear without treatment. Even so, if you’ve been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, you may wonder whether it could impact your fertility.
Fortunately, unless the cysts are associated with another condition that affects fertility, an ovarian cyst will not interfere with your ability to become pregnant. For instance, cysts that develop due to endometriosis — an abnormal growth of uterine tissue outside of the womb — may produce endometriomas that could hinder fertility. Another condition, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), leads to the formation of many small cysts on the ovaries. PCOS causes irregular periods, which makes pregnancy difficult to achieve.
With the exception of these disorders, the three main types of cysts are not likely to affect your fertility. However, it’s important to understand the symptoms and potential risks of ovarian cysts in order to proactively manage your reproductive health.
The Three Types of Ovarian Cysts
Ovarian cysts fall into three categories: functional cysts, cystadenomas, and dermoid cysts. Here’s what you need to know about each:
The most common type of ovarian cysts, functional cysts grow during the menstrual cycle. There are two types of functional cysts: follicle and corpus luteum cysts. A follicle cyst forms when the follicle holding the egg fails to release the egg. Corpus luteum cysts occur after the follicle releases the egg. Instead of closing up and preparing for the next menstrual cycle, the follicle clogs with fluid and forms a cyst. Most follicle and corpus luteum cysts resolve in one to three months, although the latter type may grow quite large and cause pain.
Cystadenomas sprout along the surface of the ovary. These fluid-filled cysts may enlarge, necessitating treatment, but don’t prohibit you from becoming pregnant.
Dermoid cysts grow from cells present at birth. As a result, these cysts are solid masses of tissue, sometimes containing hair, skin, or teeth. They typically don’t cause symptoms or impact fertility.
Treating an Ovarian Cyst
An ovarian cyst requires surgical treatment if it causes sudden, severe pain or a fever. Those symptoms may indicate the cyst has burst, resulting in excessive bleeding. Otherwise, your doctor will monitor the cyst to see if it remains after several menstrual cycles or grows unusually large. In those instances, surgical removal may be recommended.
To relieve pain, your doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain tablets or prescribe pain medication. If you have recurrent ovarian cysts, you may want to consider birth control pills, which block ovulation and thereby stop cysts from forming.
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