How To Tell If You Have An Ovarian Cyst

Hey Heather,

My friend was recently hospitalized because she had to have a cyst removed from her ovaries or something. She thought she just had stomach pain but then she had to have surgery! It totally freaked me out. How do you know if you have an ovarian cyst? What are the signs?

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Ovarian cysts can definitely be scary, but there are also a lot of myths attached to them. While they might seem like the sign of a serious medical issue, they’re typically quite normal and usually don’t mean anything at all. But it’s always a little nervewracking to hear a story like your friend’s, when someone ends up getting surgery. Yikes! So, how do you know if you have an ovarian cyst or just stomach pain? I went to my friend Dr. Sherry Ross for advice. She’s from the site HelloFlo (a monthly period package you need in your life ASAP) and has all the answers.

Dr. Ross said, “Simple or functional ovarian cysts are very common, and most come and go without having any symptoms at all. Every month during a normal menstrual cycle, your ovaries produce a cyst that ruptures to release an egg which allows you to become pregnant. This is referred to as ovulation.”

So where do things get tricky? Dr. Ross continues, “Symptoms of these mid-cycle cysts can include a sudden onset of mild to moderate pain in your lower belly, irregular bleeding, and a delay in your period. The fluid released along with the egg can cause these symptoms, which some women notice as a sign of ovulation. Some months this cyst is large and releases more fluid, causing severe pain, while other months the cyst is smaller, releasing a small amount of fluid and causing slight discomfort.”

Okay… but how do you know if something more serious is happening? Although there are different kinds of cysts out there, typical symptoms include bloating, painful bowel movements, pelvic pain, painful intercourse, pain in the lower back or thighs, sore breasts, nausea, and vomiting. If you feel these symptoms and they’re not going away, go to your gynecologist or see a doctor. Severe cysts that require immediate attention have symptoms including severe pelvic pain, fever, faintness, dizziness, and rapid breathing. If you experience any of these, definitely head to a doctor right away.

Other info you should know? Dr. Ross says, “Ovarian cysts can be diagnosed on a pelvic ultrasound. Treatment of a ruptured cyst includes taking pain medication, such as ibuprofen, and limiting your activities. Usually the pain resolves within a few days. If the symptoms get worse surgery is sometimes needed to remove the cyst and extra fluid in your pelvic area. Other types of benign ovarian cysts include dermoid cysts which do need to be removed surgically.”

The bottom line is this: cysts are normal and happen fairly often. Most of them are no big deal and shouldn’t even really need to be treated. More severe cysts will be painful and do require medical attention. Pay attention to your body and keep track of your symptoms to determine what your next moves should be. And when in doubt, always call a doctor!

What’s on your mind? Heather can help! Send her your question at You can also reach our buddies at HelloFlo with questions about your body or health. Just ask Dr. Flo at HelloFlo!


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