The Effects of Ovarian Cysts on Fertility

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Ovarian cysts are small sacs that develop inside or on the surface of a woman’s ovaries. They can vary in size and contain thin or thick fluid, blood or tissue. Ovarian cysts are very common — the majority of women develop at least one ovarian cyst before they reach menopause. Most of these women won’t even realize it because the cysts are a perfectly normal part of the reproductive process. In fact, the follicle that forms around a woman’s egg while it matures is a special type of ovarian cyst.
95% of ovarian cysts are benign (not cancerous) and most are functional in nature. They generally disappear on their own within weeks to months, or can be removed rather painlessly. However, some can cause complications and can occasionally indicate a reproductive problem, which can interfere with a woman’s fertility.
Ovarian cysts that affect fertility:

  • Endometriomas – cysts that form in women with endometriosis, a condition in which the tissue that normally lines a woman’s uterus grows outside the uterus. These cysts can cause pain during menstruation and sexual intercourse. Endometriomas as often called “chocolate cysts” due to the color of the fluid within many of them (old dark blood).
  • Ovarian cysts resulting from polycystic ovaries – sometimes the follicle that is meant to burst open and release the egg for fertilization does not and it turns into a cyst. More and more cysts can then begin to form, eventually building up all over the ovaries and possibly affecting the woman’s fertility. This is a symptom of a condition known as Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).

Ovarian cysts that do not affect fertility:

  • Functional cysts – these are the most common type of ovarian cyst and do not cause or contribute to infertility. In fact, functional cysts indicate that all necessary, healthy processes leading to fertility are taking place. They occur during ovulation and often disappear painlessly through menstruation. However, some may rupture, twist, or bleed, possibly causing severe pelvic pain. These cannot occur during menopause.
  • Cystadenomas – a cyst that develops from cells from the outer part of the ovary. They are normally not cancerous, but may need to be surgically removed. Cystadenomas can become very large and may measure 12 inches or more in diameter.
  • Dermoid cysts – these contain tissue from a person’s skin, hair, teeth, or other abnormal structure, rather than fluid or blood.

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