Nashville Fertility

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts and your fertility

An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled or solid sac that forms in or on the ovary. They are common during women’s reproductive years, are mostly benign (noncancerous), and often go away without treatment. Our Nashville fertility experts have many tools to diagnose and treat cysts when they do occur.

Ovarian cysts frequently do not cause symptoms and go undiagnosed unless found by a routine pelvic exam or imaging for another reason, such as fertility treatment. For those who do experience symptoms, they may include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Bloating
  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in the abdomen

Ovarian cysts and fertility

Most ovarian cysts are “functional cysts” that form during menstruation. This type of cyst does not affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant.

However, two types of cysts can reduce fertility.

  • Endometriomas are cystic growths caused by endometriosis. Endometriosis is when the uterine lining (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus, typically on ovaries or fallopian tubes. This condition, which affects more than one in 10 women of reproductive age in the United States, can reduce the chances of getting pregnant.
  • The cysts formed by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) also can reduce fertility. In this case, numerous small cysts form in the ovaries. These are formed by the follicles that should release eggs during ovulation. For women with PCOS, the follicles do not open and release the eggs, but instead continue to grow and become cysts.

As part of preparation for pregnancy, our Nashville fertility experts recommend women receive a full evaluation. If ovarian cysts are identified, further testing will be done to determine the type of cyst. Testing is important not only to understand the impact on fertility, but also because a very small percentage of these types of cysts are cancerous.

Diagnosis and testing

If your doctor finds a cyst, the likely next step is an ultrasound. This simple, painless procedure uses sound waves to generate an image of the pelvic organs. It will allow your physician to see the location, size, shape, number and mass (solid, fluid or both) of the cysts.

Blood tests also may be necessary to check hormone levels. This is useful in identifying an underlying cause and determining treatment for the cysts.


For those women whose cysts aren’t interfering with fertility, the doctor will likely recommend “watchful waiting.” Cysts often go away after a few menstrual cycles. The doctor will order a repeat ultrasound to be done a few months after the first, to determine whether any changes have occurred.  Any further treatment will be determined by what the doctor sees on future ultrasounds.

If your cysts may affect your fertility and removal is recommended, most cysts can be removed with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. In this procedure, a few very small incisions are made near the belly button to insert a lighted camera into the pelvic region to locate and remove cysts.

If the removal of the cysts does not improve fertility, or cysts continue to develop, further treatment options can be explored with our Nashville fertility doctors to continue your path to pregnancy.

If you think you might have ovarian cysts or are concerned that cysts are interfering with your ability to become pregnant, contact Nashville Fertility Center for an appointment with one of our Nashville fertility experts.

(615) 321-4740