Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Infertility?
Ovarian cysts are more common than you might think. In fact, it’s estimated that 10% of those with ovaries have them. They are fluid-filled sacs that develop in the ovaries and are typically the size of a cherry. While a few factors can cause them, they often develop due to normal hormonal changes during puberty or menopause.
Symptoms commonly experienced by those with an ovarian cyst include pressure, swelling, bloating, or discomfort in the lower abdomen. It can either be sharp or dull and can come and go. If it ruptures or causes an ovary to twist, it can cause sudden, severe pain along with nausea and vomiting. Other less common symptoms include pelvic pain, pain during sex or during your period, pain during your period, the need to urinate more, and unexpected vaginal bleeding.
While most are harmless and go away on their own without you even realizing they’re there, some can cause pain and bleeding and, in rarer cases, affect your fertility. By working with a fertility specialist, you’re able to determine what type you might have and what treatment options (if any) may be needed.
To better understand which ovarian cysts cause infertility, let’s talk about the different types, how they can affect your reproductive health, and what treatment options are available.
Types of Ovarian Cysts
In general, these cysts fall into one of two categories: functional and nonfunctional. The first is the most common and rarely one of concern, while the others are rare and grow without hormonal influence.
The two most common functional cysts are:
- Follicle cysts, which form when the follicle fails to break open during a menstrual cycle to release a mature egg. These often disappear after one to three months and usually do not cause any symptoms.
- Corpus luteum cysts, which are related to menstruation as well. When an egg is released, the follicle sac will shrink into a group of cells called corpus luteum that then make hormones to prepare the next egg for the next cycle. This cyst is caused when a follicle sac reseals after an egg is released and fails to shrink, causing fluid to build up. These cysts go away after a few weeks but can cause pain, bleed, or twist the ovary.
Other nonfunctional cysts include:
- Dermoid cysts, also known as teratoma, form from the reproductive cells that make eggs in the ovary. These are benign, and some may contain tissue like hair and skin.
- Cystadenoma develops from an ovary’s surface cell and is usually filled with a watery or mucous material.
- Endometrioma, which is found only in those with endometriosis. These cysts form when the uterine lining grows outside the uterus and attaches to an ovary.
Do Ovarian Cysts Cause Infertility?
Most cysts are benign and have little to no impact on your reproductive health. Other than some slight discomfort, you may never even know they are there.
However, some can cause infertility, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition causes several small cysts to form on your ovaries, as well as irregular menstrual cycles, metabolic abnormalities, and hormone imbalances. All of these factors can impact your ability to become pregnant. Endometrioma may impact your fertility, as endometriosis is a leading cause of infertility in women. Working with a fertility specialist allows you to catch these challenges earlier to treat them sooner and help grow the family you’ve always dreamed of.
Treating Ovarian Cysts
At first, they will do a pelvic exam to feel for any swelling and, if needed, order further tests to help determine a treatment plan. Additional testing options include:
- An ultrasound to determine the cysts’ size, shape, and location. This also shows if the cyst is fluid-filled, solid, or a mix.
- A pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy.
- Hormone-level tests to see if that’s the cause.
- A blood test to see if your cancer-antigen 125 (CA-125) levels are high, which could indicate ovarian cancer or other illnesses.
Knowing what type of cyst you have informs whether you need further treatment.
Treatment can vary depending on what type of cyst you may have. In some cases, it might be as simple as going on birth control to rebalance your hormone levels or taking over-the-counter pain medications to help relieve any discomfort. Surgery is rarely required and only used for those with cysts that do not clear up after several menstrual cycles, get larger, look unusual during an ultrasound, or cause severe pain.
If you have any questions about ovarian cysts, fertility, or building your family, we’re always here to help. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation, free for those without fertility insurance.