Can a Cyst Cause a Miscarriage During Pregnancy?

You may have heard of cysts before, but unless you have been diagnosed with one, you may not know what they are. In women, cysts are commonly found in the ovaries and are fluid-filled sacs that can vary in size. In this article, we are going to explore a question that often worries expecting mothers who discover they have cysts: “Can a cyst cause a miscarriage?” It can be scary to find out you have a cyst, especially if you are a pregnant woman.  While cysts during pregnancy are quite common, it is natural to worry about any potential risks they may pose. 

Cysts are usually harmless and often go away on their own without any treatment. However, for pregnant women with cysts, there is always a concern about the impact on their pregnancy and the health of their baby. Read on to learn more about the different kinds of cysts. We will also discuss how they can potentially impact your fertility or your pregnancy.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not give medical advice.  Always consult with your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns.

Common Causes of Cysts in Women

A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop in various parts of the body. In women, they are most commonly found in the ovaries. The ovaries produce and release eggs every month as part of the menstrual cycle. 

There are different types of ovarian cysts, some of which are harmless and may go away on their own. Some other types of cysts may require medical treatment. The most common type of cyst is called a functional cyst. A functional cyst forms during a normal part of the menstrual cycle.  There are different types of functional cysts and most usually disappear on their own within a few months.

Cysts can also form due to a hormonal imbalance, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or as a result of certain medications. In rare cases, they may be indicative of more serious conditions such as ovarian cancer.

There are certain factors that can put you at a greater risk for developing cysts.  These include a history of cysts or ovarian cancer in the family, certain other genetic conditions, and age (as cysts are more common during the reproductive years). 

Hormone levels, such as estrogen and progesterone, can play a role in the development of cysts. The hormone progesterone in particular helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and can affect the growth of cysts. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which helps control the release of eggs during ovulation, can also have an impact on cyst development.

Pelvic inflammatory disease can also increase the likelihood of cysts, as it can cause inflammation and scarring in the reproductive organs.  This can lead to the development of abnormal cysts or blockages in the fallopian tubes.

Postmenopausal women, or women who have gone through menopause, can also develop ovarian cysts. However, this is less common and may require further examination to rule out any potential issues.

Overall, there are various factors that can contribute to the formation of cysts in women. It is important to keep in mind that having cysts is not an uncommon occurrence. Most women will develop one or more, usually harmless, cysts at some point in their lives.

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Different Types of Cysts in Women

There are many different types of cysts that can develop in the female reproductive system. They can occur before pregnancy or during any stage of pregnancy.  As mentioned above, the most common type of ovarian cyst is known as a functional cyst.  

Some other common types of cysts include:

  • A corpus luteum cyst, also known as a luteal cyst, is a type of functional ovarian cyst that can occur during pregnancy. This type of cyst is formed when the sac that releases an egg does not dissolve and instead seals itself off. Corpus luteum cysts are usually harmless and will often resolve on their own.
  • Follicular cysts, on the other hand, can potentially cause complications for pregnant women if they grow too large or burst. This type of cyst occurs when the dominant follicle that holds an egg does not rupture and release the egg as it should.
  • Pathological cysts, which are less common, can also occur during pregnancy and may require medical intervention. These cysts can be the result of an underlying condition or may develop as a complication of pregnancy itself.
  • Chocolate cysts, or endometriomas, are another type of ovarian cyst that can affect pregnancy. These cysts develop as a result of endometriosis, a condition where endometrial tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the body.  It can grow in the ovaries and form a cyst filled with old blood, giving it a darker appearance resembling chocolate.
  • Paraovarian cysts, which develop near the fallopian tubes, are also worth mentioning. These cysts are often harmless and may not require treatment, but they can affect fertility if they grow large enough to block the fallopian tube.
  • An umbilical cord cyst, which forms on the umbilical cord during pregnancy, is a type of cyst that can affect the fetus. These cysts are usually small and harmless, but larger ones may require medical attention. Umbilical cord conditions can sometimes be detected through prenatal ultrasound examinations.
  • Ovarian dermoid cysts, also known as teratomas, are a type of cyst that contains tissue from different parts of the body such as hair, skin, and teeth. They are usually benign but can cause complications, such as ovarian torsion, if they become large or rupture.  
  • An ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, can sometimes cause cysts to form in the ovaries. This type of early pregnancy is not viable and requires immediate medical attention. If you have any of the following symptoms during pregnancy, seek medical help immediately: abdominal pain or cramping, vaginal bleeding or spotting, dizziness or lightheadedness, and shoulder pain.
  • Cystic hygromas, which are rare fluid-filled sacs that form in the neck or head of a fetus during pregnancy, can also be considered cysts. These growths may require medical intervention if they cause complications for the baby during delivery.

The size of the cyst can vary.  Small cysts may go unnoticed and cause no symptoms, while large cysts can cause pain, pressure, or bloating in the abdomen. The blood supply to the cyst may also be affected, causing severe pain. Painful or large cysts may require medical treatment, while smaller ones will usually disappear on their own. The best thing you can do is consult with your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options.

Can a Cyst Cause a Miscarriage?

The good news is a cyst alone cannot cause a miscarriage in most cases. However, it may be a sign of an underlying condition that can increase the risk of pregnancy complications, including miscarriage.

For instance, if a cyst is caused by PCOS or hormonal imbalances, it may affect fertility and make it more difficult to conceive or maintain a pregnancy. In these cases, seeking medical treatment for the cyst may improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Cysts can appear during any weeks of pregnancy, but they are most commonly seen during the first trimester. The vast majority of ovarian cysts that develop during pregnancy are harmless and may go away on their own. However, if you experience symptoms such as pain or vaginal bleeding, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider.

In very rare cases, a large or complex cyst may put pressure on the uterus and potentially lead to a risk of miscarriage. Premature delivery may also occur if the cyst grows too large. Again, most cysts that develop during pregnancy are benign and will not cause complications.

Signs and Symptoms of Cysts

A cyst may not cause any noticeable symptoms, or it may present as a dull ache or pressure in the pelvic region. Other common signs and symptoms of cysts include:

  • Abdominal bloating or swelling
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic pain
  • Changes in menstrual cycle (including irregular periods or a missed menstrual period)
  • Fertility problems
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.  If you are ever experiencing severe pain or feel it is a medical emergency, seek medical treatment immediately.

A woman lays flat with both hands on her pelvic area.  She wears tan underwear and a sports bra.

Treatment of Ovarian Cysts

A cyst is typically diagnosed through a pelvic exam, pelvic ultrasound, or transvaginal ultrasound by your health care provider.  The ultrasound works by utilizing high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of your body.  In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used for further evaluation. Further monitoring or treatment may be required depending on the type, size, and symptoms associated with it. A pregnancy test or a blood test may also be performed to check hormone levels.

Typically, if you are not pregnant, it will be treated with medications or in some cases, surgical removal. The surgery is usually done using with a small incision using minimally invasive techniques.  The laparoscopic surgery has a high success rate in removing the cyst.

If you are pregnant, your healthcare provider will carefully monitor the cyst through regular ultrasounds to ensure it is not growing or causing complications. In most cases, surgery to remove the cyst during pregnancy is avoided unless there is a risk of rupture or other serious complications.

Instead, your doctor may suggest watchful waiting and monitoring the cyst to see if it resolves on its own. They may also prescribe pain medication or provide recommendations for managing any symptoms.

If an ovarian rupture occurs, immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent further complications. In some cases, a cyst may resolve on its own without any intervention.

The best treatment options available will depend on factors such as the size and type of cyst, the gestational age of your baby, and your medical history.

How to Manage a Cyst Diagnosis During Pregnancy

If you have been diagnosed with an ovarian cyst during pregnancy, there are some things you can do to alleviate discomfort and reduce potential risks:

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for monitoring and treatment
  • Take pain medication recommended by your doctor to manage any discomfort
  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle on the affected area to ease pain 
  • Avoid strenuous activities or exercises that may cause strain on the abdominal area
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated to support overall health during pregnancy
  • Try not to stress about it  – most cysts in pregnancy are harmless and will go away on their own

Remember, each pregnancy and cyst is unique, so make sure to discuss any concerns or questions with your healthcare provider. They can provide personalized advice and support to help you have a healthy pregnancy. And as always, prioritize self-care and listen to your body throughout the journey of pregnancy. The more informed you are about how cysts may affect pregnancy, the better equipped you will be to make the best decisions for you and your baby’s well-being.

In summary, while a cyst in itself typically does not cause a miscarriage, it is important to monitor and treat cysts during pregnancy to prevent potential complications. If you experience any symptoms of a cyst, consult with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. With proper management and monitoring, most cysts during pregnancy will not pose significant risks to the mother or baby. You can rest assured that with the right care and support, you can have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Remember to listen to your body throughout your pregnancy journey. And if you ever have any concerns or questions, never hesitate to seek advice from your healthcare provider.  

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