There are several types of ovarian cysts. Functional ovarian cysts are harmless swellings of the ovaries that occur in response to your usual menstrual cycle. Every menstrual cycle, your ovaries form small cysts, also known as follicles, right before they release eggs. Usually these cysts rupture when they release eggs, then they shrink and disappear, but sometimes they grow larger. They can be symptomless, or they can cause issues like missed periods, longer or shorter periods, or spotting between periods; pain during intercourse or at the beginning or end of menstruation; sore breasts; and nausea.
Generally, functional ovarian cysts will shrink and go away on their own within three to six weeks. If they don’t, or if they rupture and bleed a lot, you may require surgery, which could possibly impact your fertility. Even if you end up needing part of your ovary to be removed, however, you can still be fertile – women who have only one ovary, or even only part of an ovary, have conceived.
The size of cysts may also have an effect on fertility: if a cyst is large enough to block the opening of your fallopian tube, it could stop the egg from implanting in your uterine wall.
Endometrial ovarian cysts may impact fertility. These cysts occur when uterine tissue begins to develop in places other than the uterus. When this tissue causes a cyst that interferes with ovulation, it can negatively affect fertility: the eggs themselves will be fine, but ovulation will be disrupted. These cysts may stop the follicle around an egg from developing. Surgery to correct endometrial cysts may also result in the removal of ovaries, which could impact fertility.
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Dermoid cysts and cystadenomas are two types of cysts that don’t impact fertility. Whereas the usual cyst contains fluid, Dermoid cysts contain tissue like hair, skin or even teeth. They may need to be removed, but they generally don’t hurt your ability to conceive. Cystadenomas grow on the surface of the ovary, but aren’t dangerous to fertility.
One chronic cyst-related condition that could affect fertility: polycystic ovary syndrom, in which the ovaries produce many small cysts. Women with PCOS also often experience irregular periods and high levels of male hormones: they may not ovulate.