Can you get pregnant with an ovarian cyst? Ovarian cysts are very common, generally harmless and some types are a harmless by-product of your natural fertility cycle. Naturally, if you’re hoping to get pregnant, it’s important to know how to differentiate between them, and understand whether ovarian cysts can compromise your fertility.
Read this IVI article to find out more about the different types of ovarian cyst and whether you might find it hard to get pregnant with ovarian cysts. If you do conceive, will a cyst in the uterus during pregnancy become a problem? Whether a cyst will affect your pregnancy depends on the type of cyst. It’s important to say at the outset that in the vast majority of cases, you won’t experience any problems with fertility or pregnancy as a result of ovarian cysts. Let’s take a look at what they are, which types are benign and which may cause problems, and what to expect if you’re diagnosed with one or more ovarian cysts.
What is an ovarian cyst?
Any fluid-filled sac or cavity which can form in many locations throughout the body is known as a cyst, and it follows that an ovarian cyst is a cyst in or on the ovaries. Some of them have no impact at all on your fertility. Indeed, some functional cysts, such as follicular and luteal cysts, are the harmless result of ovulation, which is of course an essential aspect of your fertility. This is how some of these functional cysts may occur:
- Each month an egg which has developed in an ovarian follicle comes to maturity and breaks out of the follicle before travelling down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. Sometimes however, the maturing egg never quite gets to the point of breaking out. The follicle stays intact and continues to grow, becoming a follicular cyst.
- After ovulation, the follicle which has housed the egg shrinks into a mass of cells which become corpus luteum. It continues to play a necessary part in your monthly cycle through the production of hormones which begin to prepare for the next cycle. Sometimes, instead of shrinking, the open follicle seals itself up and fills with fluid, becoming a luteal cyst.
- Cystadenomas are cysts which can form on the outer surface of the ovaries. They may need to be treated, but they don’t prevent you from being fertile.
- Dermoid cysts differ in that they are filled with skin or hair structures rather than fluid, but they too are harmless in relation to fertility, although they may need to be removed surgically.
Can ovarian cysts affect your fertility?
We’ve seen that, far from having a detrimental impact on your fertility, some cysts are a natural part of your reproductive cycle. However, there can be cases where the cyst or cysts are a symptom of an underlying problem. The underlying problem may be one which could affect fertility, rather than the cysts themselves. Examples include polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a condition characterized by multiple small cysts on the ovaries, higher than normal levels of some hormones and irregular periods. Irregular periods are an indication of irregular ovulation, and this in itself could reduce your fertility because, put simply, if there is no egg there is no possibility of conception. The multiple cysts which occur in PCOS are the result of eggs which start to develop but never reach maturity, and so are not released from the ovary. These follicles, each containing an immature egg, become tiny cysts, resulting in polycystic ovaries. You can find out more in our IVI blog article on how infertility resulting from PCOS can be treated with IVF.
Endometriosis is a painful condition caused by the growth of tissue similar to the lining of the womb, the endometrium, in locations outside the uterus. It is often associated with a hormone imbalance and is painful because, as part of the monthly cycle, the endometrium is shed regularly in your monthly period, but the extraneous tissue has nowhere to go and so can cause obstruction and inflammation. Cysts in a ‘string of pearls’ pattern is a feature of endometriosis. Ovarian cysts known as endometriomas can be a result of endometriosis. They can range from less than 2 cm up to more than 15 cm.
The way that these cysts affect fertility is not entirely understood, but fertility doctors know that the condition is closely associated with reduced fertility through a decrease in ovarian reserve, and possibly by some anatomical distortion or inflammation. You can find out more in the section of our website about the causes of infertility.
How are ovarian cysts treated?
Functional ovarian cysts usually disappear in a couple of months and do not require any treatment, although surgical removal may be necessary if they are causing any symptoms or are very large or, rarely, if they are potentially cancerous. Although surgical treatment aims not to damage your ovaries, some damage may occur. For this reason, many women who hope to start or grow their families choose to preserve their fertility through freezing their eggs before the surgical removal of ovarian cysts.
Treating infertility at IVI
Rather than direct treatment of the cysts themselves, a much more common solution is to treat the infertility that can result from cysts which are associated with endometriosis or PCOS. In both scenarios, the exact treatment our specialists recommend would depend on other factors such as your and, where appropriate, your partner’s reproductive status and history. The most suitable treatment could be the relatively simple assisted fertility technique known as Artificial Insemination (AI) or the more complex but very well-established and successful technique of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
If you’re concerned about getting pregnant with ovarian cysts, or a possible reduction in your fertility as a result of cysts, don’t lose hope of fulfilling your family dreams. There is lots of help available. IVI is a worldwide leader, so do not hesitate to contact us using our online contact form.