Can Ovarian Cysts Cause Infertility?

Ovarian cysts are quite common. Although statistics vary, most research suggests between 8 and 18% of women will have a cyst in this lifetime. Of those, between 13 and 20% are malignant. It is not uncommon to have an ovarian cyst and not know.

Key takeaways:
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    Although statistics vary, most research suggests between 8 and 18% of women will have a cyst in this lifetime.
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    Most ovarian cysts resolve without treatment. However, some do require surgical intervention to address this.
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    Although some cysts may lead to temporary discomfort, most do not have an impact on fertility.
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    The symptoms one experiences when they have a cyst are directly related to the type of cyst.
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    There are two types of cysts; functional and non-functional.

What are ovarian cysts?

Cysts (of any kind) are sacs generally filled with fluid that occur inside and sometimes outside the body. Ovarian cysts occur specifically on the surface of an ovary or inside it. Because women have two ovaries, it is possible to have one or more cysts on one or both ovaries at any time. While some women experience pain and discomfort, others may not have any symptoms. Most ovarian cysts resolve e without treatment. However, some do require surgical intervention to address this.

Symptoms of ovarian cysts

Again, many ovarian cysts are small and resolve independently, often without symptoms. However, this is not the car in all situations. Some women experience mild to moderate symptoms, but others may suffer from extreme pain and discomfort.

The most common mild symptoms that any occur with an ovarian cyst include:

  • Swelling
  • Pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Lower abdominal pain

The abdominal pain may be sudden and severe if an ovarian cyst ruptures. You may also experience nausea and vomiting.

In addition to common mild to moderate symptoms, other less common examples include:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain in your pelvis or lower back
  • Difficulties with bowel movements and urination
  • Weight gain without explanation
  • Tenderness in the breast
  • Pain during your period (worse than traditional “period cramps”)
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Frequent or excessive urination

Are ovarian cysts and infertility connected?

Many women will have an ovarian cyst at some time, and for the most part, the cyst is generally harmless and heals on its own. Although some cysts may lead to temporary discomfort, most do not have an impact on fertility. However, some types of cysts affect the menstrual cycle and can lead to challenges with fertility.

The symptoms one experiences when they have a cyst are directly related to the type of cyst. To better understand how or if a ruptured ovarian cyst can cause infertility or whether a dermoid ovarian cyst can cause infertility, it is important to understand the different types of cysts.

Functional vs. non-functional cysts

There are two types of cysts; functional and non-functional. Functional cysts occur during a normal menstrual cycle due to hormonal imbalance. Functional cysts are considered the most common type of cyst. The presence of functional cysts indicates your body is performing the necessary processes required for conception to occur. Non-functional or neoplastic cysts are less common and are not influenced by hormones.

Non-functional cysts

Some non-functional cysts can be associated with reduced fertility, such as cysts resulting from polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriomas.

Endometriomas

Endometriomas are ovarian cysts that occur in someone with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a gynecological illness involving the tissues that normally line the interior of the uterus (endometrium) growing on areas outside the uterine walls. Endometriomas are found in 17-44% of patients with endometriosis, and several studies suggest a link between this type of ovarian cyst and problems with fertility.

Ovarian cysts from PCOS-PCOS

Ovarian cysts from PCOS-PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition characterized by many small cysts on the ovary. In addition, women with PCOS may experience pelvic pain and irregular ovulation patterns. Studies suggest PCIS affects one in ten women of childbearing age. It is one of the leading but treatable causes of infertility in women.

Dermoid Cysts

Can complex ovarian cysts cause infertility? Dermoid cysts are a type of complex ovarian cyst comprised of cells that were part of your body before birth. Your body uses these cells while you are a developing fetus to produce dermal tissues. In some cases, dermoid cysts can contain hair, fat, skin, and even teeth. Although dermoid cysts themselves do not typically affect fertility, a woman who has had a dermoid cyst may experience reduced fertility if they lost an ovary due to the cyst or reduced ovarian function due to a surgical procedure to remove the dermoid cyst.

Hemorrhagic cysts

A very large cyst can burst or rupture. When this occurs, it can cause extreme pain and bleeding (hemorrhage). The risk of rupture increases with the size of the cyst. Hemorrhagic cysts require immediate medical attention. However, it is essential to mention that a ruptured cyst is not necessarily linked to infertility. Even if treatment for a ruptured cyst requires the removal of an ovary, as long as the other remains healthy, conception is still possible.

Functional cysts

As previously noted, functional cysts are common. There are two primary types of functional cysts, follicle cysts, and corpus luteum cysts.

Follicle cyst

Follicle cyst is a sac that contains a mature egg. The egg will be released when you ovulate. These follicles may swell with fluid if the egg is not released.

Corpus luteum cyst

A corpus luteum cyst forms from the follicle cyst after it releases the egg. This type of cyst occurs when the follicle closes back up and fills with fluid.

Most functional cysts resolve on their own and are not accompanied by symptoms. You should contact your provider if you experience mild to moderate pain or any of the ovarian cyst symptoms listed above. They can perform an exam and perhaps other tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound, to properly diagnose and cyst and suggest the best treatment options.

Treatment of ovarian cysts

If an ovarian cyst is causing pain or if it grows or changes shape or appearance, your provider may recommend surgery to remove the cyst. If your provider recommends surgery, you may wonder if ovarian cyst removal can cause infertility. In short, the answer is no. Often, cyst removal is a simple procedure that does not affect or require the removal of an ovary.

Should it be necessary to remove an ovary (for example, if a cyst ruptures or surgery damages the ovary), it is essential to remember that ovarian cyst removal does not cause infertility. Women often worry that losing one ovary means their fertility decreases by 50%. However, typically fertility only declines by 15-25% on average.

Although certain types of ovarian cysts can affect fertility, most do not. If you experience frequent cysts or are concerned that current symptoms may suggest a cyst, it is important to speak to your care provider about your concerns. They can work with you to diagnose your symptoms and recommend the best treatment for your concerns and family planning goals.