Ovarian cysts typically aren’t dinner-table conversation, but if you and your dining pals are fans of the show Girls, you might have broached the topic.
In March 2016, Girls star and writer Lena Dunham made headlines after she was hospitalized for a ruptured ovarian cyst. Later, she was discharged and went home to recover for several weeks.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts usually are not cancerous. In fact, they’re pretty harmless, and most women who have them will not find themselves in Lena Dunham’s situation. Most cysts are diagnosed through ultrasound or other imaging tests, which will also let your physician see the size of the cysts. While most cysts do not cause symptoms, if a cyst ruptures you may feel sudden pain and discomfort.
If you have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts and are trying to get pregnant, it’s important to know that ovarian cysts don’t typically cause problems with fertility. However, there are always exceptions to the rule.
Endometriosis: Not Your Uterus’s Friend
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 condition in which cells from the lining of your uterus implant or grow on the outside of the uterus. If it causes growths that block your fallopian tubes, blood can get trapped in the ovaries, causing cysts.
While it’s still possible to get pregnant, endometriosis does decrease fertility. In fact, almost 50% of women with infertility also have endometriosis.
There are steps you can take which may lower your risk of getting endometriosis. Make sure that you:
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid large amounts of alcohol
- Stay away from drinks loaded with caffeine
Another Foe: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
If you have clusters of pearl-sized cysts, you might have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome—a leading cause of infertility in women.
Your ovaries contain eggs, which are present in the ovaries from a woman’s development as a fetus. These eggs get released each month during the ovulation phase of your menstrual cycle. The eggs are in tiny sacs called follicles that fill up with fluid as the eggs mature. Normally, the follicles break open to release the matured eggs, sending them to the womb for fertilization.
Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome do not make all of the hormones needed for the eggs to fully mature. The follicles grow and build up fluid, but the eggs do not get released. Ovulation does not occur, and the follicles might turn into cysts.
If this happens, your body might fail to make the hormone progesterone, which is needed to keep your cycle regular.
I Have Cysts, And I’m Pregnant … Is It Time to Panic?
Ovarian cysts are common during early pregnancy, even though you’re no longer menstruating. Usually, these cysts are harmless just like most other ovarian cysts.
However, there are a few possible problems if the cysts continue to grow throughout your pregnancy. They might rupture, twist, or even cause problems during childbirth. This is one of the many reasons it’s important to stay under the care of an obstetrician/gynecologist during your pregnancy, and throughout your life.
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, you might have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, miscarriage, or premature delivery.
Talk with your OB/GYN about your risk and potential treatment options. She’ll provide you with a thorough set of options and recommend the best course of treatment to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.