Ovarian Cysts and Fertility*
Can You Get Pregnant with Endometriosis?
While the prevalence of ovarian cysts varies considerably, researchers report that between 8 and 18 percent of both pre- and postmenopausal women have ovarian cysts.
In the United States, approximately 5 to 10 percent of women undergo surgery for ovarian cysts in their lifetime, with 13 to 21 percent being malignant — meaning they’re cancerous.1
It is important to note that there are different types of ovarian cysts, some of which impact fertility more than others. If you and your partner have been trying to conceive without success, here’s what you need to know.
What Are Ovarian Cysts and How Do I Know If I Have Them?
If you are experiencing difficulties becoming pregnant, you may want to explore the possibility of having ovarian cysts. These fluid-filled sacs are often painless and cause no symptoms, which is why routine pelvic examinations are so important.
While there are numerous types of ovarian cysts, including endometrioma (which are associated with endometriosis) and dermoid cysts, functional cysts are the most common.2 These cysts develop on a woman’s ovary during or after ovulation and include:
- Follicle cysts —During a women’s estrus cycle, an egg grows in a fluid-filled structure known as a follicle. In most cases, the follicle releases the egg at ovulation. However, if the follicle doesn’t release the egg, the structure may continue to grow, forming an ovarian cyst.
- Corpus luteum cysts —After releasing an egg, the follicle develops into a progesterone-producing structure called the corpus luteum. Sometimes, the corpus luteum will fill with fluid, becoming a corpus luteum cyst that usually disappears within a few weeks.
Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts
As discussed, many women do not showcase any symptoms. However, as a cyst grows, new symptoms may emerge, including:
- Swelling or bloating in the abdominal region
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic pain occurring before or during the menstrual cycle
- Increased breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in the lower back of thighs
If at any point you begin to experience severe symptoms, such as faintness, rapid breathing, fever, or severe pelvic pain, this may indicate a ruptured cyst, which will require immediate medical attention.
Causes and Risk Factors
- Hormonal issues — Although functional cysts tend to go away on their own, they may be initially caused by hormonal issues or drugs used to increase ovulation rates.3
- Endometriosis — When endometriosis tissue attaches to the ovary, it can form a growth. These cysts will likely cause pain during your period or intercourse.
- Severe pelvic infections — If you have a pelvic infection, it may spread to your ovaries and Fallopian tubes. This can cause cysts to form.
- Pregnancy — Sometimes the corpus luteum doesn’t disappear through a process termed luteolysis, but instead fills with fluid becoming a cyst. In some cases, these cysts do not go away and need to be removed.
Ovarian Cysts and Fertility
There are numerous variables to consider regarding the relationship between ovarian cysts and fertility, especially the type of cyst(s) you have.
The most common functional cysts discussed above do not typically affect fertility. In fact, if these types of cysts form, they indicate that your body is going through the necessary functions that allow fertility to take place. While complications can arise, these are less concerning than:
- Endometriomas — Since these cysts are caused by endometriosis, a condition that causes the tissue that normally lines your uterus to grow outside the uterus, these cysts may indicate significant fertility issues. Although you can get pregnant with this disorder, it is much more difficult and complications may arise (i.e. a higher risk of preterm birth and cesarean section).4 In fact, approximately 50 percent of women with infertility also have endometriosis.5
- Cysts that develop due to PCOS — Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) occurs when you develop many small cysts in your ovaries. You will also likely experience irregular periods, resulting in irregular ovulation. In cases where ovulation does not occur, PCOS is responsible for 80 percent of infertility cases.6
How to Get Pregnant with Ovarian Cysts
For the most part, cysts will not significantly impact your chances of becoming pregnant. It is the underlying conditions associated with some cysts that do impact fertility levels, including PCOS and endometriosis. The types of cysts associated with these conditions are often a byproduct of the condition itself, acting as an important warning sign.
Although ovarian cysts may sound frightening, most women develop a least one cyst every month during their regular menstrual cycle. Most often, these cysts will be harmless. However, if you are concerned about the possibility of an ovarian cyst, it is important that you speak with your physician. In the meantime, to improve your chances of becoming pregnant, you should address your ongoing reproductive health.
*NOTICE: The contents of this website are for informational purposes only, and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a potential medical condition.