An ovarian cyst is a sac that forms on the ovary and is filled with fluid. They are common in women and can occur during pregnancy. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 1000 pregnant women will get an ovarian cyst. In most cases the cyst is harmless and has no obvious symptoms.
Many ovarian cysts found during pregnancy are not cancerous. To determine this, a doctor conducts an ultrasound of the abdomen to establish if an ovarian cyst is cancerous or non-cancerous. A benign cyst appears as a fluid-filled sac without any thick walls of septation. However, an ultrasound cannot determine if a cyst is malignant with 100 percent accuracy.
Ovarian cysts, even those that are benign, can grow large. This can cause complications during pregnancy, including pain and the risk of miscarrying or delivering prematurely. Large ovarian cysts also can cause pre-term labor.
Although ovarian cysts are usually not a cause for concern, they can occasionally rupture and cause pain. If this happens, pain relievers can be used to ease the discomfort. Anesthesia during labor is still an option even if you have an ovarian cyst, so there is no need to worry about it interfering with your pregnancy.
If an ovarian cyst becomes large, it may twist on itself. This can cause pain and may require surgery to remove the cyst. Usually, this will not harm the baby or affect the pregnancy, but if it can be avoided during pregnancy, it should be. An ovarian cyst may need to be removed if it is larger than 6-8 cm, unless it shrinks on its own.
Operating on an ovarian cyst during pregnancy is best done during the second trimester, at 14 to 16 weeks. While some cysts can be removed laparoscopically, larger cysts are more likely to require an open incision. There is a higher chance that a large ovarian cyst will rupture, so women with large ovarian cysts should talk to their doctors about their options. In many cases, doctors will simply monitor the patient’s condition until the second trimester before choosing to operate.
Although ovarian cysts during pregnancy are fairly common and usually benign, it’s important to keep an eye on them and consult with your health care provider. If any symptoms do develop, be sure to bring them up so that they can be properly monitored.