I can honestly say that before I started trying to get pregnant, I never gave my ovaries much thought. But for women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts, that luxury isn't always available. Ovarian cysts are generally harmless, but can cause some pain, and some may require surgery to get rid of them. It's no wonder that women who have them are concerned about how they will affect pregnancy and vice versa. If one's still there when you become pregnant, can pregnancy reduce the size of ovarian cysts?
It really depends, says G. Thomas Ruiz, MD and OB-GYN at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. He notes that the term "ovarian cysts" is very broad and can apply to both functional and pathological cysts. "Functional cysts are the cysts where the egg develops every month," Ruiz tells Romper. "If a patient gets pregnant, a functional cyst called the 'corpus luteum' supports the pregnancy during the first eight to 10 weeks. If the egg is not fertilized, the cyst will resolve and disappear, and a new cyst will develop for the next cycle."
But if your cyst is pathological, Ruiz notes that pregnancy can not cure it. "If a pregnancy occurs in the presence of a pathologic cyst, it can continue to grow and cause pain," he says. "If there is a pregnancy in the presence of a neoplastic cyst, it can get big enough to twist, causing severe pain, and constitutes a surgical emergency. Generally, this does not hurt the developing baby, but major surgery during pregnancy can cause pre-term labor."
Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN, and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California agrees with Ruiz. "Simple or functional ovarian cysts are very common, and most come and go without any symptoms," Ross tells Romper. "Every month during a normal menstrual cycle, your ovaries produce a cyst that ruptures to release an egg, allowing you to become pregnant. Since you are not ovulating during pregnancy, you will not develop new cysts related to your menstrual cycle."
If you're concerned about the type of cyst you may have, Ross says ovarian cysts can be diagnosed on a pelvic ultrasound. "Other types of benign ovarian cysts include dermoid cysts, which do need to be removed surgically, but can wait until after delivery unless you have a C-section," she says. Ross notes that the majority of simple cysts are nothing to worry about.
When you see your OB-GYN, they'll be able to determine if the cysts you have are benign and if something needs to be done about them while you're pregnant. Try not to stress too much and wait for your healthcare provider to help you with the next steps.