Did you know that if you have a period, you will develop ovarian cysts in your life time? You may not feel it or know that you have one, or you might experience pain and other unpleasant symptoms. But how are ovarian cysts formed, and what are the causes?
What is a Cyst?
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can form in many places in the body. Ovarian cysts form on the surface of the ovaries, and are actually very common, particularly during ovulation. Ovulation is the process of the ovary releasing an egg each month. Most ovarian cysts are small and don’t cause symptoms, but about 8% of premenopausal women develop large cysts that need treatment. Ovarian cysts are most common in women with regular periods.
Common causes of ovarian cysts include:
- Hormonal problems: Functional cysts usually go away on their own without treatment. They may be caused by hormonal problems or by drugs used to help you ovulate.
- Endometriosis: Women with endometriosis can develop a type of ovarian cyst called an endometrioma. The endometriosis tissue may attach to the ovary and form a growth. These cysts can be painful during sex and during your period.
- Pregnancy: An ovarian cyst normally develops in early pregnancy to help support the pregnancy until the placenta forms. Sometimes, the cyst stays on the ovary until later in the pregnancy and may need to be removed.
- Severe pelvic infections: Infections can spread to the ovaries and fallopian tubes and cause cysts to form.
If you experience pain during menstruation, you should get it checked by your doctor or OB/GYN. Cysts are very common, and nothing to be ashamed of. If you experience cysts, particularly painful ones, there are many options to help you ease their unpleasant symptoms. You know your body best, and if something feels off, get it checked.
For women with PCOS and Endometriosis, you should know you are not alone and there resources available. Find your support network online, in person, or with the other women in your life!
Unfortunately, there are not enough conversations around menstrual pain or ovarian cysts. There is a lot of shame around the menstrual cycle, even though it completely normal and healthy. As a society, women are taught to hide their menstrual cycle and their symptoms. If they experience any pain, they are expected to “suck it up” and continue with their life. This can lead to women ignoring their problems for years, or even for their whole lives. This is particularly devastating because PCOS and endometriosis are very common disorders for women in the reproductive age, affecting 5-10% of women. In one study, up to 70 percent of women with PCOS hadn’t been diagnosed. Endometriosis affects 10% -15% of women of all women of reproductive age and 70% of women with chronic pelvic pain. Unfortunately, for many of these women there is often a delay in diagnosis of endometriosis, resulting in unnecessary suffering and reduced quality of life.
To lessen the stigma and silence around reproductive health, we need to do more to normalize this conversations and provide the care women need.