Let’s be honest: being a woman is amazing. We’re strong, beautiful, and know how to kick ass and go after what we want. But in between those badass moments, we sometimes have random complications, such as ovarian cysts, which can make us experience unbearable pain and stop us right in our tracks.
While we normally wouldn’t let anything get in our way, our health should be our top priority. That means taking the time to understand our bodies and going to the doctor when something doesn’t feel right, especially when it comes to our reproductive organs. Luckily, ovarian cysts can come in a lot of forms, and most of them are harmless. But if you happen to feel bloated, feel random sharp pains, or experience painful sexual experiences, you may want to get yourself checked out. Unsure if you have complicated ovarian cysts? Below are just a few signs that your ovarian cysts need to be examined.
What are ovarian cysts?
Even though it’s pretty common for us women to have ovarian cysts, it’s important to understand why they occur and how they can affect our bodies. To give a simple definition, ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can occur in your ovaries during your monthly cycle and usually go unnoticed. While the majority of the time they are painless, cysts can become a problem if they become enlarged or never go away. However, according to women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., Dr. Sherry A. Ross, it’s completely normal for a woman to experience having at least one ruptured cyst a month.
“Simple or functional ovarian cysts are very common and most come and go without having any symptoms. Once a month during a normal menstrual cycle, the ovaries produce a cyst that intentionally ruptures to release an egg, which allows you to become pregnant. When the cyst ruptures, fluid is released into the pelvis — this is also known as ovulation. If the egg released from the cyst is fertilized by sperm, a pregnancy will occur. If the egg is not fertilized, a period will occur,” explained Dr. Ross.
If this sounds scary, don’t worry. 99 percent of the time, cysts are harmless and benign (aka non-cancerous). However, if you feel like you’ve been experiencing abnormal pains or discomforts for a little while now, you may want to keep a look out for these signs below.
1. Small or sharp pain around your pelvic region
As women, we’re lucky to experience mild to excruciating pain at least once a month (sarcasm). Even though this tends to happen around our periods or during ovulation, sometimes random, uncomfortable pains appear out of nowhere days or even weeks before our period even begins, which could indicate that you may have complicated cysts.
According to Women’s Health Magazine, you’ll most likely feel this pain in the lower right or left side of your pelvic region, aka your ovaries. But what exactly should you keep an eye out for? “You might feel it when you exercise, you might feel it when you’re sexually active, but it will be a pain in that specific place that is constant and stays even after your menstrual cycle goes away,” said Taraneh Shirazian, M.D., a gynecologist at NYU Langone Health.
2. Irregular or delayed periods
Periods are complicated, period. Not only are they different for every woman, but they sometimes involve so many complications that they honestly should come with an instruction manual. When you add cysts to the mix, those complications add even more pain and discomfort on top of whatever you’re already feeling. “Symptoms of these mid-cycle cysts can include a sudden onset of mild to moderate pain in your lower belly — irregular bleeding, and delay in your period. The fluid released along with the egg can cause these symptoms which some women notice as a sign of ovulation,” said Dr. Ross. “Some months this cyst is large and releases more fluid, causing severe pain; other months the cyst is smaller, releasing a small amount of fluid causing slight discomfort.”
3. Sex is painful
If you’re randomly experiencing painful sex out of the blue, and it’s happening more than once, you may want to go to your OBGYN to make sure everything is good with your uterus and ovaries. Unfortunately, enlarged cysts are known to make sex feel incredibly uncomfortable and even painful when they become complicated and continue to grow instead of going away on their own. While you can continue to have sex by using certain sex products, like Ohnut or Dame, to make it less painful, you still want to listen to your body and make sure you’re not pushing it to its breaking point during this time. “Some ovarian cysts persist beyond ovulation and can cause problems for women if the cyst continues to grow in size or reptures,” explained Dr. Ross.
4. You feel like your hormones are out of wack
While most women’s cysts come and go around their periods, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a condition where women have a lot of tiny cysts on their ovaries that can affect your hormones, and can cause irregular periods, acne, and weight gain. Due to the multitude of cysts that are occupying this small space, they are known to the imbalance of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, which triggers the aforementioned symptoms. The only way to be diagnosed with PCOS is by having your doctor conduct by blood test or an ultrasound exam.
5. You constantly feel like you have to go to the bathroom
Unless you’re drinking gallons of water in a day, you shouldn’t be feeling like you have to go to the bathroom all the time. But you may be experiencing this symptom if you have a large ovarian cyst pushing on your bladder. According to Medical News Today, a complicated or enlarged cyst that pushes on your bladder can give the illusion that you have to go to the bathroom all the time, and may have you feel constant pressure in this region. One easy way to detect if your body is playing tricks on you is moderating how many times you have to go to the bathroom throughout the day. If you find yourself in the bathroom not doing much of anything, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor just to be safe.
What if I do have multiple of these symptoms? Can you treat or prevent cysts?
Unfortunately, there are no ways to actually prevent cysts from happening. They naturally occur around your period, but again, normally go away on their own. However, if you find that things have become a little more complicated, and you’re experiencing excruciating pain, vomiting, or heavy bleeding, you may want to consult with your doctor.
“If you have an enlarged ovarian cyst seen on a pelvic ultrasound (US) a follow-up ultrasound is done three to four months later during a period. Typically an enlarged cyst will disappear during this time. If the enlarged ovarian cyst is still seen in the ovary, another follow-up US can be done in three to four months. Simple or benign ovarian cysts will disappear over three to six months. Other types of benign ovarian cysts include dermoid cysts will need to be removed surgically. The majority of simple cysts are simply nothing to worry about,” said Dr. Ross.
Cysts are a normal part of your cycle that fluctuate depending on your body and hormones. If you do find that you have cysts, it’s a good idea to monitor them and consult with your OBGYN, especially if you sense that something is wrong. At the end of the day, we’re our own advocates when it comes to our bodies and it’s important to take care of ourselves when we need it most.