For some women who have had painful diseases such as endometriosis, PCOS, or even cancer, they may have had to have their ovaries removed at a young age. But what if you still want to get pregnant? Can you even get pregnant? Thankfully, with medical advances in the realm of fertility, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), women without ovaries are able to become pregnant and carry babies to term. If you’re one of these women and you’re pregnant, you may be wondering, "How is pregnancy different if I’ve had my ovaries removed?"
How can someone get pregnant without ovaries? They produce your eggs, and are kind of important when it comes to making a baby, right? That’s where IVF can come in.
According to the Mayo Clinic, IVF is the process of collecting mature eggs from your ovaries, fertilizing them in a lab, and manually implanting them in your uterus. If you don’t have ovaries, you can still use this method of fertilization. Dr. Kurt Martinuzzi, OB-GYN at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, says you can either get eggs from a donor, which can be fertilized by your partner’s sperm, or you can even get a donated embryo.
Once you’re pregnant, "hormones are then given to prepare the uterus and support it for the first 10 weeks — then the placenta takes over," Martinuzzi says to Romper in an email. "After that, the pregnancy progresses the same as any other pregnancy."
Is there anything that could cause your ovaries to be removed after you’re already pregnant? Martinuzzi says it’s rare, but it can happen. "Occasionally, a large cyst will develop on an ovary, and the ovary will twist on its blood supply (ovarian torsion). If the blood supply is cut off, there will be severe pain and the patient will need surgery," he says. "We always try to save the ovary, but in some cases, it needs to be removed."
According to Martinuzzi, you only need one good ovary to keep the pregnancy growing, so that’s good news. "Whichever ovary made the egg will have a cyst that makes the pro-pregnancy hormone — a pro-gestation hormone called progesterone," he says. This particular cyst is yellow, because of a yellow pigment in the cyst called lutein, and is called the corpus luteum, according to Martinuzzi.
If the ovary with the "corpus luteum" is removed prior to 10 weeks, you’ll have a miscarriage unless you’re given supplemental progesterone, since the corpus luteum is what keeps the pregnancy going.
Pay close attention to your body’s cues and signs. If you’re feeling severe pain in your ovary, call your doctor immediately to make sure everything is OK in there. But rest assured, even without both ovaries, you can still have a normal pregnancy because bodies are incredible things. As long as you have sperm, eggs, and progesterone hormone supplements the first 10 weeks after you get your BFP, you can still carry a pregnancy to term, even without ovaries.