Do Ovarian Cysts Affect My Chances of Becoming Pregnant?
15 December 2017 by - Dr Pandelis Athanasias
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs which can be found on or inside the ovaries. They are very common, with many women developing them at some point in their life. Most are harmless and cause no symptoms or pain, which is why they usually go undetected, disappearing over time without the need for medical intervention.
As such, ovarian cysts are often only found during routine pelvic examinations or ultrasounds. If you know you have ovarian cysts and are not finding it as easy as you thought to get pregnant, you might be wondering why.
Ovarian cysts do not usually cause infertility
Having a cyst on an ovary does not usually affect one’s chances of becoming pregnant, which is why doctors will typically only investigate further if a couple has been trying to conceive naturally through regular intercourse for a year, but have not yet been successful in falling pregnant.
However, one condition which can prevent fertility is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), in which there are several small cysts on the ovaries.
PCOS and fertility
PCOS is a chronic condition which affects around 20% of women. Typical symptoms include irregular or no periods, weight gain, acne, excessive hair growth, mood swings and difficulty becoming pregnant.
While many women living with PCOS do manage to conceive naturally, some may require medication to help regulate their ovulation or even begin ovulating altogether. Clomifene is most often prescribed to these women and stimulates the monthly release of an egg from the ovaries.
If medication is unsuccessful, it may be recommended to undergo minor surgery, referred to as laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) which is carried out under general anaesthetic. Here, a small incision is made in the lower abdomen and a microscope passed through so that the surgeon can examine the internal organs. Heat or lasers are then used to destroy abnormal tissue which is producing the male hormones associated with PCOS.
The outcome is, hopefully, a reduction in the hormonal imbalance and restoration of normal function of the ovaries. This could then increase chances of falling pregnant.
Other ovarian cyst complications
Most ovarian cysts are ‘functional’, simply occurring as a result of the normal ovulation cycle and going away on their own. However, in rare circumstances, some women may experience cyst-related problems. Functional cysts can rupture and cause bleeding, triggering terrible abdominal pain.
In other cases, a different type of cyst can form – these are known as ‘pathological cysts’ and have several types. Dermoid cysts are those which contain unwanted tissue such as hair, skin or teeth and can grow rather large. Cystadenomas are those which develop from cells covering the outer layer of the ovary and can be filled with watery liquid or mucous. Both of these types may require surgical removal for ovarian cysts.
This surgery should not, however, affect fertility, unless the doctor removes an ovary. This is rare though and only occurs where cysts are extremely large, complex or cancerous. It is highly recommended that surgery is carried out before pregnancy, so as to avoid complications.
How do I fall pregnant naturally?
There are several things you can do to maximise your chances of becoming pregnant naturally:
- Ensure you follow a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Carry out regular exercise – 3-5 times per week for 30 minutes
- Stop smoking and cut down alcohol intake
- Get at least 7 hours’ uninterrupted sleep per night
- Take folic acid supplements daily