Ovarian Cyst During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Risks, & Treatments

Christian Mba
Jan 15, 2024 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on May 11, 2021
Women who experience corpus luteum cysts during pregnancy often don't experience abdominal pain at all.

Pregnancy can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes with tons of new medical terms being thrown around that can sound totally scary.

Ovarian cysts are actually really common during pregnancy, and most of the time they are benign, and there's nothing to worry about. Occasionally they might start to feel uncomfortable or behave differently and cause you problems, so it's good to know what to look out for while you're pregnant, so that you can limit any risk.

If you're of childbearing age, you probably know people who have had ovarian cysts, and it's not at all unusual for women to find out that they have cysts while they're pregnant, simply because before this point they had no pain or symptoms from the cysts at all.

It's very rare that you'll have to resort to surgery for a cyst, but it's often a good idea for your doctor to keep an eye on them, to make sure they don't grow and cause complications for you and your baby down the line.

Fortunately, though, the majority of ovarian cysts are completely harmless and cause no pain at all.

We've got all you need to know about ovarian cysts while you're pregnant here. Check out our article on the worst weeks for morning sickness or this piece on working while pregnant to learn more about pregnancy.

What Are The Symptoms Of An Ovarian Cyst?

Removing an ovarian cyst during pregnancy is usually a last resort, and surgery is unlikely.

There are a few different symptoms of ovarian cysts during pregnancy, and it's good to be aware of them, so that if you do experience any, you don't feel overwhelmed or worried unnecessarily, and can take the relevant action.

Often you won't actually experience any signs at all that you have ovarian cysts, and they will go away without any treatment at all within a few months, but here are a few of the most common symptoms you could experience.

Pelvic pain, ranging from dull and heavy pain to more sharp and severe pain in the pelvic area. This pain can be a symptom of ovarian tumors or cysts.

If you're experiencing any abdominal pain while having sex, this can also be a symptom and is something to check out with a specialist.

You might be having some difficulty emptying your bowels, or a more frequent need to urinate.

Bloating and swelling in your abdominal area can also be caused by ovarian cysts, and you might find that you're feeling really full after only eating small amounts.

If you're experiencing periods as part of your menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts can make these heavier, lighter, or just more irregular than your normal menstrual cycle.

Occasionally ovarian cysts can cause a bit of difficulty for women who are trying to get pregnant, though fertility is usually unaffected by them.

As you can see, the symptoms are wide and varied, and signs of an ovarian cyst during pregnancy might be overlooked as just general pregnancy symptoms. It's always best to get a check-up with your doctor if you have any worries at all.

What Is An Ovarian Cyst?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow on the ovary. They are extremely common, and often you won't even know that you have one, especially when it goes away naturally on its own.

There are two main types of ovarian cyst you might experience during pregnancy. The most common kind are functional ovarian cysts, which develop during your menstrual cycle and are usually harmless. Less common are pathological ovarian cysts, which are a result of abnormal cell growth.

One of the most common kinds of cyst you might come across is called the follicular cyst, which is when the tiny sac that the egg grows in, called the ovarian follicle, doesn't open to release the egg and grows into a cyst.

During pregnancy, you might end up growing an ovarian cyst because the corpus luteum (the structure that houses your maturing egg) produces hormones that nourish the uterine lining for your growing baby. Sometimes in pregnancy, the corpus luteum gets filled with fluid and stays on the ovary when it's no longer needed. This will form a corpus luteum cyst.

Less common types of ovarian cysts can include dermoid cysts called teratomas, which are made up of ovarian germ cells that contain teeth, skin, hair, or fat. Endometrioma cysts, which are common for women who suffer from endometriosis and are usually filled with blood, making them darker in color than other ovarian cysts.

If you experience lots of cysts on your ovaries, this could point to an underlying condition like endometriosis. Cystadenomas cysts are solid and develop on the surface of an ovary.

What Are The Risks?

Cysts sound scary and can make women worry in case they have a tumor or cystadenoma, but the majority of the time they go away on their own with no need for surgery.

Most ovarian cysts that are diagnosed in pregnant women are not dangerous at all and pose little to no increased risk to your baby's health.

If you experience a corpus luteum cyst in your first trimester, most of the time it will go away by itself by the second trimester, so your doctor will just ask you to keep an eye on how you're feeling and any pain you experience.

Some other kinds of cysts might keep growing after they've been diagnosed during pregnancy, and can even become quite painful. This pain doesn't mean that they are anything to worry about, most of the time they actually still don't cause any problems to your baby.

You might experience the rupture of an ovarian cyst during pregnancy, which sounds much worse than it usually is.

Most of the time the cyst will just heal on its own, with no harm done. Draining an ovarian cyst during pregnancy will often happen naturally, or your doctor will guide you to how is best to proceed.

Some women don't feel anything at all when a cyst bursts, but you might experience vaginal bleeding or spotting, nausea or vomiting, pain, dizziness, fever, or a sharp pain in the lower abdomen.

If there is a lot of bleeding after an ovarian cyst rupture during pregnancy, or if you experience a lot of bleeding or a more complex ovarian cyst during pregnancy like a torsion (when the cyst causes your ovary to move or twist and can block blood flow), or if there's another complication that impacts your pregnancy, then surgery might be recommended by your doctor.

Occasionally a cyst on your ovary can point to a longer-term condition like endometriosis, and occasionally an ovarian cyst can contain cancer, which means that more treatment will be needed.

What Is The Treatment?

The treatment that a doctor suggests for women who have cysts on their ovaries will depend on a number of factors including age, symptoms, and the type and size of your ovarian cysts.

Women who have been diagnosed by their doctor with having a large ovarian cyst during pregnancy will have a regular ultrasound of the uterus and ovaries. This uterus and ovary ultrasound can monitor any changes in the cyst.

Your doctor might give you the diagnosis of ovarian cysts when you have a pelvic exam.

Depending on what it feels like (if it is fluid-filled, solid, or a mixture of both) and what size it is, your doctor will probably recommend more tests to work out the best approach to treatment.

This can be anything from a pregnancy test to a pelvic ultrasound (where a wand-like device sends and receives ultrasound waves inside of your uterus and ovaries), a CA 125 blood test, or a laparoscopy, which is a surgical procedure using tiny incisions to remove the cyst.

A lot of the time, your doctor will simply ask you to be mindful of the cyst and to wait for a few months to see if it goes away on its own accord without any interference.

If ovarian cysts are smaller than 1.97 in (5 cm) and the pregnant woman is not experiencing any symptoms, this is typically a treatment option your doctor will suggest.

If this is the route you go down, you'll probably have another ultrasound scheduled to monitor whether the cyst changes size.

A doctor might offer you pain medication for a painful ovarian cyst during pregnancy that is uncomfortable, and as a last resort, they may suggest surgery to remove a cyst that could put your baby at risk.

Your doctor will most likely do this using laparoscopes which are tiny incisions, but if your cyst is very large then that might not be possible and regular abdominal surgery might be the only option.

If you experience ovarian cysts when you're not pregnant or find an ovarian cyst after pregnancy, then the process of removing or treating the cyst might be very different.

It's always important to get cysts checked out in case they contain cancer, but it's important to note that the risk of cancer is generally quite unlikely, and the majority of the time these ovarian cysts are nothing to worry about and go away naturally on their own.

If you do find out that your cyst has a risk of being cancerous, then your doctor will usually book you in for an MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to get a bit more information about it.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our guide to morning sickness at night or whether pregnant women can drink wine?

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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