About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
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Basic Facts about Ovarian Cysts

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac. In most cases a cyst on the ovary does no harm and goes away by itself. Most women have them sometime during their lives and they are rarely cancerous in women under 50. Cysts sometimes hurt - but not always. Often, a woman finds out about a cyst when she has a pelvic exam.

If you're in your childbearing years or past menopause, have no symptoms, and have a fluid-filled cyst, you and your AOA doctor may choose to monitor the cyst. You may need surgery if you have pain, are past menopause or if the cyst does not go away. Birth control pills can help prevent new cysts.

Is there a link between ovarian cysts and fertility?

Some ovarian cysts can be associated with decreased fertility, but most do not.

Benign Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts that do not affect fertility include:

  • Functional cysts are the most common type of ovarian cyst. They form during a normal menstrual cycle and do not cause or contribute to infertility. In fact, functional cysts actually indicate that the necessary functions leading to fertility are taking place.
  • Cystadenomas are growths in the ovary that arise from the surface of the ovaries. Although they need treatment, they don't affect fertility.
  • Dermoid cysts contain tissue — such as skin, hair or even teeth — instead of fluid. Dermoid cysts aren't associated with infertility.

Ovarian cysts that can affect your fertility include:

  • Endometriomas are cysts caused by endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue normally lining your uterus (endometrium) grows outside the uterus. These ovarian cysts do have a detrimental effect on fertility.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition marked by many small cysts in your ovaries, irregular periods and high levels of certain hormones. PCOS does contribute to problems with fertility in some women.

Symptoms

Most cysts don't cause any symptoms and go away on their own. A large ovarian cyst can cause abdominal discomfort. If a large cyst presses on your bladder, you may feel the need to urinate more frequently because bladder capacity is reduced.

The symptoms of ovarian cysts, if present, may include:

  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Pelvic pain — a constant or intermittent dull ache that may radiate to your lower back and thighs
  • Pelvic pain shortly before your period begins or just before it ends
  • Pelvic pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Pain during bowel movements or pressure on your bowels
  • Nausea, vomiting or breast tenderness similar to that experienced during pregnancy
  • Fullness or heaviness in your abdomen
  • Pressure on your rectum or bladder that causes a need to urinate more frequently or difficulty emptying your bladder completely

When to see your AOA doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Pain accompanied by fever or vomiting

These signs and symptoms — or those of shock, such as cold, clammy skin, rapid breathing, and lightheadedness or weakness — indicate an emergency and mean that you need to see a doctor right away.

If you are diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, talk with your AOA doctor to learn what kind of cyst you have, the types of treatments available if necessary, and whether it is likely to impact your fertility.