It’s possible to be born with just one ovary. Yet, most women who have only one ovary have this condition because they’ve had the other one removed. Reasons why an ovary is removed, are many, but no matter the reason the biggest questions a woman has about this process include, “Does having one ovary mean I’m half as fertile?”, “What are my fertility chances”, and “Can I still conceive a child if I have just one ovary?”
The quickest answer is this: It is possible to get pregnant with one ovary.
So, let me share with you about the things you can do to enhance your fertility should you only have one ovary and have concerns about ovarian health.
Are You ½ as Fertile With One Ovary?
This is just not the case at all! Normally, the production of a mature egg happens in one of two ovaries. If you’ve had one ovary removed (a unilateral oophorectomy) and one ovary remains, all of the eggs come from a single ovary that when healthy is more than prepared to pick up the slack.
What is unilateral oophorectomy?
Unilateral oophorectomy is when one ovary and the fallopian tube on the same side of the uterus are removed surgically. Causes making this procedure necessary include:
- ovarian abscess (a severe, localized infection)
- benign tumor of the ovary
- large ovarian cysts
- ectopic pregnancy
- severe endometriosis
- possibly ovarian cancer
Doctors often make every effort to remove one ovary, rather than both, in order to maintain female hormone levels and to aid fertility to the greatest degree possible. If you are told you need to have your ovaries removed, but desire to conceive naturally or maintain your fertility, talk to your surgeon to make sure that both ovaries actually need removal. If they know you still want to conceive, they may decide that it is enough to remove one ovary or a segment of the unhealthy ovary rather than the whole thing.
Fertility Chances with One Ovary
According to research published in 2017 in Climacteric, the removal of one ovary, called a unilateral oophorectomy, advances the time of menopause by less than two years. This is promising research. With one ovary, you will still ovulate and can still get pregnant but you’ll want to be more ambitious in your attempts to get pregnant. Part of this involves charting your menstrual cycle and learning the signs of ovulation. Charting your menstrual cycle is easy once you begin paying attention to your body, know the signs of ovulation and learn your fertile window, which is when you are most able to conceive.
If you see changes in basal body temperature, cervical mucus and position after one ovary has been removed, you can be assured you are still fertile and that the remaining ovary has compensated for the lost ovary. If the remaining ovary is healthy, there is no reason you cannot get pregnant. Things like scar tissue or other abnormality of the remaining ovary or fallopian tube, however, can affect your fertility chances, even if the ovary is technically functional.
Fertility options after a unilateral oophorectomy
If you know you have ovarian function but still can’t get pregnant, it may be time to consider an assisted reproductive technique, such as IVF or in vitro fertilization. IVF can be used if:
- the fallopian tube remaining is impaired
- there is male factor infertility
- other fertility health issues or health factors are standing in the way of natural conception
- poor egg health or diminished ovarian reserve (IVF with egg or embryo donation is possible)
Supporting Healthy Ovarian Function With One Ovary
There are natural therapies to support the function of your remaining ovary. A great deal of ovarian support has to do with enhancing the circulation to your ovary. These are some techniques that will help maximize ovarian function:
- Self Fertility Massage— Self Fertility Massage™, or SFM for short, is a series of techniques that encourage circulation and blood flow to your ovary (all organs of the pelvic bowl actually). It reduces stress and improves your endocrine signaling pathways to the ovary, promoting hormonal balance. Self Fertility Massage™ is complemented by castor oil therapy and Radiant Womb Therapeutic Fertility Massage Oil.
- Castor Oil Packs— Castor oil packs improve circulation to your reproductive tract, enhance the function of the immune system, promote detoxification of the body by the liver, and reduce pain and inflammation in the pelvic organs. Castor Oil packs have been used for centuries by midwives and natural healthcare practitioners to improve a woman’s fertility.
- Fertility Yoga— Yoga specific to fertility involves using specific stretches and poses to maximize the balance of your reproductive hormones, increase circulation to and relieve scar tissue formation on the pelvic organs, as well as detoxify your body of waste and excess hormones. The reduction in stress alone can improve your fertility chances! See fertility yoga programs at the Natural Fertility Shop.
- Exercise— Exercise of most any type can be remarkably helpful in reducing stress and will generally enhance the body’s circulatory system function. Exercise can involve walking, swimming, yoga, or any moderate-level-intensity physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rate.
Beyond Ovarian Health Support
Every fertility-enhancing activity you do supports the others! Nothing happens in a vacuum or by itself.
Make sure you’re eating a healthy, whole-food Fertility Diet that contains a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants. Certified Herbalist Elizabeth Willett, MA, shares, “You might be surprised to know that consuming adequate amounts of Vitamins D, B12, Iron and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) all can play a part in healthy ovulation. “Women who do not get sufficient amounts of iron may suffer anovulation (lack of ovulation) and possibly poor egg health, which can inhibit pregnancy at a rate 60% higher than those with sufficient iron stores in their blood,” share researchers from India in their 2014 report in the International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review.”
Support the maturation of a healthy egg by placing focus on egg health too! You also need to exercise regularly and avoid things like caffeine and tobacco in any form. In addition, anything you can do in your life to reduce stress will help you ovulate regularly, which automatically improves your chances of conceiving a healthy child.
- Rosendahl M., Simonsen MK and Kjer JJ. (2017 Dec).The influence of unilateral oophorectomy on the age of menopause. Climacteric. 20(6):540-544. doi: 10.1080/13697137.2017.1369512. Epub 2017 Sep 21. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28933974
- Unilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy for Ovarian Cancer. Retrieved from https://moffitt.org/cancers/ovarian-cancer/unilateral-salpingo-oophorectomy/
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): What is it?. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/infertility/in-vitro-fertilization/
- Rodriguez, H. (updated December 6th, 2018,). How to Use Self Fertility Massage™ to Boost Your Chances of Conception. Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage
- Rodriguez, H. (updated December 6th, 2018). Fertility Yoga. Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-yoga
- Willett, E. (updated Dec. 7th, 2018). 5 Reproductive Health Benefits of Castor Oil Packs. Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/reproductive-health-benefits-castor-oil-packs.html
- Willett, E. (updated Nov. 19th, 2018). 5 Simple Ways to Promote Regular Ovulation, Retrieved from https://natural-fertility-info.com/ways-to-promote-regular-ovulation.html