A woman who mistook an ovarian cyst for a baby watched her stomach “grow and grow” each day before finally having it removed, along with her right ovary and fallopian tube.
Hollie Welham, 21, came to believe she must be expecting after she started feeling nauseous and noticed her stomach ‘growing’ in January this year, but when all the tests came back negative, Hollie was referred for an ultrasound as her symptoms continued to worsen – including severe cramps, bleeding, and back pain.
Doctors discovered she wasn’t carrying a baby, but a large cyst was growing on her right ovary. By the time she had keyhole surgery in May 2022, the cyst had grown to 27cm – larger that a football – and Hollie’s stomach had ballooned in size due to fluid build up.
A surgeon at Musgrove Hospital, Taunton, successfully removed the cyst, along with her right ovary and fallopian tube, and Hollie has shrunk back to her normal size eight frame.
Hollie, a health care assistant, from Bridgwater, UK said: “At first, I thought I was pregnant. All of the symptoms pointed towards it because my stomach was growing bigger each day – like a bump. I can’t believe how big my tummy got – I looked nine months gone. I couldn’t fit into any jeans and even leggings felt too tight and painful on my stomach. I was so uncomfortable, but I’m so pleased they spotted the cyst and managed to remove it.”
In January 2022, Hollie began experiencing symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and stomach cramps. She also struggled to fit into some of her clothes and felt extremely bloated.
Hollie said: “I thought it was from overdoing it at Christmas. But when the bloating and pain got worse, I thought I might be pregnant. I took a few pregnancy tests, but everything came back negative. It was quite scary, and I had no idea what it could be or whether I was just going be like this now.”
In February 2022, Hollie also started experiencing irregular bleeding throughout the month. She booked an appointment with the GP to see what was causing the issues.
Hollie claims the doctor felt a ‘lumpy’ in her stomach and referred her for an ultrasound scan. She said: “They offered a scan for five weeks’ time, but I couldn’t wait that long. My stomach was getting bigger each day and I was in so much pain.”
A week later, in March 2022, Hollie managed to undergo a scan which revealed she had a large cyst growing on her right ovary. By this point, Hollie said her stomach felt ‘solid’ and she was continuing to bloat due to a build-up of fluid.
“At the first scan, it was measuring in at about 18cm big,” she said. “I read anything over 10cm is large for a cyst on your ovary and quite rare. But they said it wasn’t benign and not cancerous or anything to worry about. I can’t believe how big I got – I looked like I was about to give birth, I had such a big ‘bump’. I was in so much pain because it was a lot of extra weight to carry around.”
Hollie was booked in an operation in May 2022 at Musgrove Hospital, Taunton, where doctors performed keyhole surgery to remove the cyst. By the time the cyst was removed, it had grown larger than 27cm – around the size of a football.
Doctors were able to remove the entire cyst as well Hollie’s right ovary and fallopian tube. She said: “They had to remove my ovary as well because the cysts had grown inside of it.
“It shouldn’t affect my fertility – you can still have children with one ovary, it just might take longer. I had some great support from my family and boyfriend Isaac, 20. My stomach is still a bit sore and bloated but it’s massively reduced in size. I want to share my story to help other look out for the signs and symptoms.”
“It was quite scary at the time but I’m recovering well now.”