Most women develop a few ovarian cysts throughout their lifetime and never even know it, and after menopause, about 18% of women get them. These tiny sacs filled with fluid can usually only be seen with ultrasound, and they typically go away without any treatment.
Regardless of your age, most ovarian cysts are benign and asymptomatic, but some can lead to complications, including cancer (especially in post-menopausal women). But can they cause infertility?
Dr. Khashayar Shakiba and our team at Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey in Hackensack, understand your concerns. If you have ovarian cysts, you may be wondering if they can interfere with your plans to get pregnant. The short answer is: not usually, but it depends. Here’s the long answer.
Problematic ovarian cysts
Most ovarian cysts come and go undetected, but when they do make themselves known, it’s because they’ve grown larger rather than shrinking and fading away. When this happens, you may feel bloated and have an unusually heavy sensation in your pelvis and lower abdomen. If your cyst ruptures, you’re likely to feel sharp pain and have some bleeding.
If your cyst doesn’t go away on its own, Dr. Shakiba can remove it with a minimally invasive technique that requires only tiny incisions. However, if tests reveal that your cyst is malignant, the best treatment is typically removal of the ovary.
In and of themselves, benign ovarian cysts don’t usually cause infertility, although it’s a possible contributor. The more likely links between ovarian cysts and infertility are the underlying causes of the cysts.
When ovarian cysts may interfere with conception
Several conditions and situations can cause ovarian cysts, and the underlying cause may or may not complicate fertility.
Hormonal fluctuations are usually the culprit behind the asymptomatic ovarian cysts, called functional cysts, that disappear on their own. This can be the result of your monthly menstrual cycle, a hormone imbalance, or ovulation drug therapy.
Pregnancy also leads to the development of ovarian cysts to support early fetal development as the placenta forms. These typically slough off as the pregnancy progresses, but occasionally they remain and need to be removed after delivery.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
If your ovarian cysts are a direct result of a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you have clusters of multiple small cysts. This happens when you don’t have the right balance of hormones in your body to trigger the full maturation of your eggs.
Under normal circumstances, an egg grows within its follicle, or sac, which fills with fluid over the course of your cycle. When you ovulate each month, the sac opens and releases the egg. But if you have PCOS, the egg remains immature, and the sac never opens to release it, which means there’s no egg available for fertilization.
Endometriosis occurs when your uterine tissues grow beyond the bounds of your womb. This rogue tissue can attach itself to any organ in your pelvis, including your bladder, bowels, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
If endometriosis invades your ovaries, it can cause endometriomas, or ovarian cysts. These appear as blood-filled cavities in your ovaries, and they can damage your ovarian tissue and prevent ovulation, which of course, interferes with fertility.
I have ovarian cysts: Can I still get pregnant?
While some ovarian cysts can pose some problems with pregnancy, most can be removed in a way that preserves your ability to conceive.
Dr. Shakiba uses the da Vinci® surgical system, a robotic device that enables him to make extremely precise movements through tiny incisions. The system also allows him to view clear digital imagery of your cysts as he performs the removal procedure, so there’s little to no damage to surrounding healthy tissues. In most cases, the successful removal of problematic ovarian cysts restores fertility.
If you’re having fertility problems and suspect ovarian cysts, schedule a consultation with Dr, Shakiba right away. Call our friendly staff at 201-273-9830 to set up an appointment, or book it online today.