Facts About Ovarian Cysts and Birth Control Pills


An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms either in or on your ovary. Most cysts are harmless and go away on their own without treatment. If you often develop ovarian cysts, your doctor may recommend that you take birth control pills to reduce their frequency.

How a Cyst Forms

  • There are several different kinds of ovarian cysts. The most common is called a functional cyst. Prior to ovulation, a follicle grows in your ovary in order to release an egg. Normally, the follicle dissolves after the egg is released. Sometimes, however, the follicle either fails to release the egg or fails to dissolve after the egg is released. Instead, the follicle keeps growing, forming a functional cyst.


  • Many ovarian cysts don't cause any symptoms. In some cases, however, cysts lead to symptoms such as irregular periods, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. You should see your doctor if you suspect you're experiencing symptoms of an ovarian cyst.

Birth Control Pills

  • If you experience frequent functional cysts, your doctor may recommend that you take birth control pills. Birth control pills prevent pregnancy partly through suppressing ovulation. Since functional cysts occur as a result of ovulation, taking birth control pills can help reduce your likelihood of developing functional cysts. If you don't want to take birth control pills, using an alternate hormonal birth control method, such as a shot or implant, will also help control your ovarian cysts.

When Hormonal Birth Control Won't Help

  • While functional cysts are the most common ovarian cyst, there are a few other types of ovarian cysts such as endometriomas cysts, cystadenomas cysts, dermoid cysts, and polycystic ovarian cysts. These nonfunctional cysts are not the result of ovulation and thus can't be prevented with birth control pills. Women in their childbearing years can experience both functional and nonfunctional cysts; women who are past menopause will only get nonfunctional cysts since they are no longer ovulating.


  • Most cysts go away on their own within one to three months. If you have a functional cyst and only minor symptoms, your doctor will probably wait to see if the cyst clears up on its own. If the cyst persists or gets larger, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the cyst. Women who are past menopause will often need to have surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. While most ovarian cysts are not cancerous, women ages 50 to 70 are at higher risk of ovarian cancer so it's important to confirm that a cyst is noncancerous.

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