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.
Here’s what you need to know about ovarian cysts and fertility.
What are ovarian cysts?
Ovarian cysts are sacs that form on the surface or inside of an ovary. They can be either solid or filled with fluid, and typically range in size between 1-4 centimetres (although they can sometimes grow to 5cm or more).
They may affect one or both ovaries, and can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Abnormal cell growth
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Pelvic infections
Ovarian cysts are most commonly found in women of childbearing age (between 19-45 years old).
Symptoms of ovarian cysts
Most ovarian cysts are harmless, cause no symptoms, and resolve on their own in time. However, large cysts are more likely to cause discomfort, especially if they rupture, grow rapidly, or twist around their blood supply (this is known as torsion).
Symptoms can include:
- Pelvic pain or abdominal pain which radiates to the lower back
- Regular bloating or indigestion
- Changes in your bowel habits including difficult and painful movements
- Pain during sex
- Nausea and vomiting
If you experience any of the above symptoms, our caring gynaecologists at Northside Gynaecology can help identify the issue and recommend a treatment plan.
Ovarian cysts and fertility
A cyst’s influence on your ability to get pregnant depends on many factors, including the cyst type and size, your age, and your overall gynaecological health.
Although some types of cysts do not affect a woman’s ability to have a child, certain types of cysts are known to interfere with ovulation. Irregularities with normal ovulation are the top cause of women having trouble becoming pregnant, or having a successful pregnancy.
Functional cysts (the most common type of ovarian cyst), cystadenomas, and dermoid cysts (these contain solid tissue) don’t affect fertility (unless they grow very large).
Ovarian cysts that can affect fertility include:
Cysts caused by endometriosis (endometriomas)
Endometriosis is a condition where cells that line the inside of the uterus grow in other areas of the body. If these cells attach to the ovaries, they can causes cysts that affect the ovary’s normal function.
Up to 50% of women with endometriosis have difficulty becoming pregnant.
Cysts caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition associated with an imbalance of hormones and marked by symptoms such as irregular ovulation (caused by small cysts on the ovaries).
As many as 25% of women of childbearing age have PCOS, but most don’t discover it until they begin trying to get pregnant.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst and are concerned about becoming pregnant, talk to your gynaecologist for professional advice.
Treatment options for ovarian cysts
Treatment typically depends on the cyst’s type and size. Initial treatments may include monitoring, and/or medication to slow the cyst’s growth. If ovarian cysts do not resolve on their own, are resistant to treatment, or are causing you painful symptoms, you may decide to have them removed surgically.
At Northside Gynaecology in Brisbane, we use the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques to promote fast recovery times. Cysts may be drained using single cut laparoscopic surgery, which requires only one small incision at the belly button.
Through this single incision, specialised instruments are inserted, including a tiny lighted camera which the surgeon uses to guide the procedure. The surgeon then collapses the cyst and removes it, allowing you to preserve your ovarian tissue and maintain normal ovarian function.
This is a particularly beneficial type of procedure for women who are yet to have a child, or would like to have more in the future.
Where to get further advice
If you are concerned about your fertility, or are suffering symptoms of ovarian cysts, our caring gynaecologists at Northside Gynaecology can provide professional advice. We are an all-women practice specialising in a wide range of women’s gynaecological health issues.
Call us on 1300 780 138 to book an appointment at one of our convenient Brisbane locations.