You’ve probably heard the old saying: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ right? While that may apply to appliances and electronics, it definitely should not apply to our bodies or health. If you wait for pain or dysfunction to identify health issues, you’ve could already be putting your health in peril, and sometimes your very life. That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure your ovaries are healthy and functioning properly.
Many ovarian problems are silent or painless, giving no indication of a problem until it becomes potentially deadly. Ovaries are the primary female reproductive organs. These glands have three important functions: They secrete hormones, and they shelter and protect the eggs a female is born with until they are ready for use.
They additionally release eggs for possible fertilization each menstrual cycle. This process is called ovulation. Inside each ovary, there are follicles, and inside of each follicle is a dormant egg. When a female is born, she has around 150,000 to 500,000 follicles in her ovaries. By the time she is sexually mature, the female will have around 34,000 follicles.
Human females are typically born with two ovaries, stemming from the uterus. As a woman matures, so do her ovaries. At maturity, ovaries are about the size of a large olive.
Did you know that women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs?
And, just how do you know if your ovaries are working? Your health care provider (HCP) can find out if your ovaries are working properly by doing a blood test to check the level of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) in your blood. This blood test is usually repeated before a diagnosis can be made.
Most ovarian problems are caused by cysts. Ovarian cysts, i.e. growths on the ovaries, are most common. Many women don’t even realize they have a cyst (or cysts) because, typically, they are not painful or anything to worry about. The most common signs and symptoms of ovarian cysts include:
- Pain, such as dull pelvic or abdominal pain, or sharp pain during activity
- Bloating, or a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting, similar to morning sickness.
Sometimes, however, a cyst will become cancerous. One in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are currently tests that can help detect a woman’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer. In rare cases, women choose to remove their ovaries as a precautionary measure.