Hailey Bieber Says She Has an Ovarian Cyst ‘the Size of an Apple’

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What Is an Ovarian Cyst? Theo Wargo - Getty Images

Hailey Bieber is getting candid about an intense health experience she’s going through. The model shared on her Instagram Story on Tuesday that she has an ovarian cyst “the size of an apple,” noting that she’s experienced this before.

“I don’t have endometriosis or PCOS, but I have gotten an ovarian cyst a few times and it’s never fun,” she wrote over a photo of herself holding her shirt up to reveal her stomach. Bieber wrote over her stomach that there is “not a baby” in there, and noted that the cyst makes her feel achy, “nauseous and bloated and crampy and emotional.” She added, “it’s painful.”

Ovarian cysts are common in women, but there’s a lot of variation with them and how they’re treated, says Christine Greves, M.D., a board-certified ob/gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. Here’s what you need to know.

What is an ovarian cyst?

As a whole, ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs on the ovary, one of a pair of female glands where eggs form, according to the Office on Women’s Health (OASH). There are different types of ovarian cysts, but the most common ones—called functional cysts—form during the menstrual cycle and don’t have symptoms, OASH says.

These are the different types of ovarian cysts, per OASH:

  • Follicle cysts. These are linked with the menstrual cycle. Typically an egg grows inside a tiny sac called a follicle, which breaks open to release the egg once it matures. Follicle cysts form when the follicle doesn’t break open to release the egg.

  • Corpus luteum cysts. When the follicle breaks open and releases the egg, the empty sac usually shrinks into a mass of cells called corpus luteum, which makes hormones to prepare the next egg for the next menstrual cycle. But, if the sac doesn’t shrink, a corpus luteum cyst forms and fluid builds up inside. Most go away within a few weeks but they can grow to up to four inches wide.

  • Endometriomas. These cysts are caused by endometriosis, which is a condition that happens when the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus.

  • Dermoids. Dermoid cysts are formed from cells that are present from birth.

  • Cystadenomas. These cysts are filled with watery fluid and can grow large.

Ovarian cyst symptoms

Most ovarian cysts don’t cause symptoms, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). However, some can cause a dull or sharp ache in the abdomen, along with pain. “If it’s large, a woman may be able to feel it,” Dr. Greves says. “But you can absolutely have an ovarian cyst with no symptoms.”

What does an ovarian cyst feel like?

Again, most ovarian cysts don’t feel like anything. But, if a cyst is large, it can actually feel like a lump in your pelvic area, Dr. Greves says.

If you have an ovarian cyst that bursts, you can feel “sudden, sharp pain,” along with bleeding and bloating, says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D.

Larger cysts come with the risk of what’s known as ovarian torsion, which is when the cyst twists the ovary and sometimes the fallopian tube, Dr. Greves says. That can cause severe pain on one side that comes and goes or starts suddenly, ACOG says. If you have those symptoms, she recommends that you “seek treatment immediately," since an ovarian torsion is a medical emergency.

How to treat ovarian cysts

Treatment ultimately depends on the cyst itself, Dr. Greves says. “Some rupture and take care of itself, and some don’t,” she says.

If you’re diagnosed with an ovarian cyst, “many doctors will approach the management of an ovarian cyst with a ‘watchful waiting’ attitude to see if it resolves on its own,” Dr. Wider says, noting that “many cysts will resolve without intervention.”

During “watching waiting,” your doctor will likely recommend that you have regular ultrasound exams to see if the cyst is changing in size or appearance, ACOG says. However, many go away on their own after a cycle or two.

If the cyst is large or is causing intense pain and cramping, Dr. Wider says that “surgery is an option.” That usually involves the use of a laparoscope to remove the cyst, ACOG says.

If you suspect that you have an ovarian cyst, Dr. Greves recommends that you talk to your doctor. They can evaluate you and recommend next steps from there.

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