Imagine a panicked 15-year-old, whose only knowledge of her menstrual cycle is “I bleed every 28 days,” in the emergency room with doctors who have no idea what is going on. Now imagine how equally panicked her mother is, since she hasn’t even given the birds-and-bees talk. That girl was me.
The Mayo Clinic defines ovarian cysts as “fluid-filled sacs within or on the surface of an ovary.” They can happen to anyone between the ages of 13 and 50. There are two different types of cysts—those that happen normally (functional cysts) and those that are abnormal.
While the majority of ovarian cysts are harmless, some functional cysts can produce serious symptoms such as pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting, and feeling of heaviness in your abdomen.
Unfortunately for me, I had the serious symptoms. The unbearable pelvic pain and the crippling anxiety of an unknown diagnosis were the worst parts of my ovarian cyst.
In some cases, birth control can be a good treatment because it helps stop ovulation, which reduces the chance of new cysts developing in future menstrual cycles. However, the most common treatment for an ovarian cyst is to wait for the cyst to pass, as they usually do within a few month. In my case, I had to wait until my next period for the cyst and pain to resolve.
While my friends were having a photo shoot for fun, I was drinking children’s Motrin in the pediatric ward. My treatment consisted of a bottle of Advil, a heating pad, and a box of tissues for the times I would cry in agony. It has always been hard to explain ovarian cyst pain to someone who has never had it. My most common example is asking others about the most painful day of their cycle. Imagine that day—a paralyzing and extreme pain—happening every day for two weeks.
One of the loudest thoughts running in my head that day was, “Why don’t I know more about my own body?”
While there is no foolproof way to prevent ovarian cysts, The Florida Hospital Medical Center recommends maintaining healthy lifestyle habits. One of those habits includes eating a well-balanced diet. Foods high in carbohydrates and estrogen can be contributing factors to cysts while vitamin A and fatty acids can help alleviate them.
Another method of prevention is being educated on the menstrual cycle and reproductive organs. Regular pelvic examinations after you start your period can help you recognize an ovarian cyst as early as possible. Often, your gynecologist will be the first person to diagnose the symptoms and severity of an ovarian cyst.
When I was 13, I got my period at a movie theatre. Only two years later, I was in a hospital with an ovarian cyst, something I’d never heard of. Since then, I have become more educated on my health so I never again have to be a scared teenager with no idea of what’s going on with my body.