In case you've been in the dark.
Ovaries don't get nearly enough attention as vaginas, considering they really do hold the secrets to new life. Without them, we couldn't create life, and when we grow older, they have tons of components that keep you healthy and things working smoothly.
But still, when it comes to women’s health, ovaries are often overlooked.
"They play a critical role in everything from fertility to hormonal balance, and they can also be the source of several illnesses that may or may not need treatment," says world-renowned fertility specialist David Adamson, founder and chief medical officer at ARCFertility.
If you don't know much about these often overlooked organs, here are 9 things you may not know about ovaries.
1. The pill may be beneficial to your ovaries.
"There is consistent evidence that oral contraceptives appear to reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer," says Dr. Ronald D Blatt, M.D., chief surgeon and medical director of the Manhattan Center for Vaginal Surgery and the Manhattan Centers for Women's Health.
2. All the eggs a woman will ever have in her life are in her ovaries when she is born.
"Many people don’t know that the highest number of eggs exist four months after she is conceived. The average female embryo has 3 to 5 million living eggs in its ovaries five months before birth. And after that four-month mark, her ovaries do not produce any more eggs," says Adamson.
By the time a girl is born, the number of eggs in her body has declined 60 to 80 percent. At birth, most females have 700,000 to 1 million total eggs.
"That means that 3 to 4 million eggs have already died while in the uterus. Never fear! A million eggs are still plenty. And an egg cell is the largest cell in the body — some can even be seen with the naked eye!" says Adamson.
By the time a girl has her first period the number of living eggs has dropped significantly.
"The total number of eggs in a female’s ovaries at the time of menarche (first menstrual period) is between 350,000 and 500,000. That’s about half the number that she had at birth." Yowza.
3. Your eggs compete with each other.
During peak fertility, 20 to 30 eggs simultaneously begin to develop and compete with each other hormonally.
"The dominant egg is the one that ovulates. All of this occurs inside a woman’s ovaries," says Adamson.
4. Ovarian cysts often go away on their own.
"We all know women who have needed medication or surgery to address an ovarian cyst, but the majority of these cysts (fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries) go away after 3 to 4 months even without treatment of any kind," says Adamson.
5. Some cysts do need medical attention.
Less than 10 percent of ovarian cysts are either dermoids or endometriomas, which do not go away on their own.
"The good news is that they are non-cancerous, but they often require surgical removal. Dermoids often have hair, skin and calcium in them; endometriomas are cysts containing old blood and occur in women who have endometriosis," says Adamson.
6. Ovarian cancer is an extremely serious condition.
Ovarian cancer mainly occurs in women over age 55, but it can occur in younger women.
"Cancers caught in stage 1 have a survival rate over 90 percent, but fewer than 20 percent of cases are caught that early. That’s why early screening is so critical," says Adamson.
7. Avoid ovarian surgery when possible.
Because egg cells can’t be replaced, women who want to have children need to avoid unnecessary surgeries that could affect their fertility.
"Even though women with only one ovary can become pregnant, people facing surgery on the ovaries for cysts should make sure that their surgeon is experienced in reproductive surgery, and in some cases consider egg freezing or other procedures to increase their chances of conception later," says Adamson.
8. Your ovaries are smaller than you think.
Picture your ovary — what do you see? Most women don’t know the size or have any visual when it comes to their ovaries.
"For future visual reference, they’re the size of almonds! So much reproductive power in such small packages!" says Dr. Yael Varando.
9. They help your whole body.
Your ovaries are mini goddesses. They provide you with estrogen which protects your heart, bones, and brain in addition to giving the gift of fertility," says OB/GYN Dr. Jessica Shepherd.