The Bartholin’s glands are located on either side of the vaginal opening of the vulva. The main function of these glands is to secrete mucilage via the Bartholin canal to lubricate the vulva and vagina. When the duct opening is blocked, mucus builds up and causes swelling near the blocked area. There are a number of measures you can try to get rid of a Bartholin’s cyst. You can start with home remedies like sitz baths, which may help make Bartholin’s cyst go away on its own. However, if the cyst is persistent, you can alternatively opt for various medical treatments such as taking pain relievers, surgical drainage, marsupialization, and antibiotics while your cyst is inflamed. After treating your Bartholin’s cyst, it’s just as important to take steps to ensure full recovery and proper healing.
Table of Contents
- 1 Use of home remedies
- 2 Medical treatment
- 3 Recovered after surgical drainage
Use of home remedies
Confirm the diagnosis of a Bartholin’s cyst.
If you’ve noticed a painful lump on one side of your vaginal opening, it may very well be a Bartholin’s cyst. You may experience pain when sitting or having sex, or sometimes you may not feel any pain at all, just swelling. If you suspect you have a Bartholin’s cyst, it’s important to see your GP so they can perform an abdominal exam and confirm the diagnosis. In addition to the abdominal exam, your doctor will most likely test you for sexually transmitted diseases. If you have an STD associated with your Bartholin’s cyst, you’re at a higher risk of the cyst becoming infected (and you’ll likely receive antibiotic treatment—more on that later). If you are older than 40, your cyst may also be biopsied to rule out cancer risk in the female reproductive system.
Take several times a day
One of the pillars in treating Bartholin’s cysts is regular sitz baths. With a sitz bath, you fill the tub with just enough water to cover your butt and vagina when you sit in the water. The water doesn’t have to be deeper but can be deeper if you want. That depends on your personal preferences and whether you want the bath to be a pleasurable experience or just take it out of conviction. You should take a sitz bath at least three to four times a day. The point of regular sitz baths is to keep the area around the Bartholin’s cyst clean, reduce pain or discomfort, and increase the chances of the cyst draining naturally on its own.
See your doctor if the cyst doesn’t heal on its own.
If your Bartholin’s cyst doesn’t drain naturally and heal with sitz baths, you can see a doctor to discuss the option of surgical drainage. The reason it’s so important to discuss treatment options sooner rather than later is that the cyst can become inflamed and a type of “abscess” is formed. Treatment can prove more difficult than a simple cyst and it is best to take preventive action. If you are under the age of 40 and your cyst is asymptomatic (no pain, fever, etc.), medical intervention is often unnecessary. If you notice signs of a fever along with your cyst, you should see your doctor for treatment. To prevent your cyst from becoming infected, you can use a condom during intercourse—especially if you’re unsure if your partner has an STD. However, it is not necessary to abstain from sexual intercourse.
Take medication to relieve pain.
While you are waiting for your Bartholin’s cyst to be treated or heal, you can take a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort in the area. You can purchase over-the-counter pain relievers at your local pharmacy. Some commonly chosen remedies are: Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) 400-600 mg every four to six hours as needed. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) 500 mg every four to six hours as needed.
Opt for surgical drainage.
Surgical drainage is the most effective way to get rid of a stubborn Bartholin’s cyst. You can see your GP, who may do it themselves (if they have experience with this procedure). Alternatively, they may refer you to another doctor for this procedure. In most cases, these procedures and drainages are performed in the doctor’s office on an outpatient basis and only require local anesthesia. Your cyst will be opened with an incision to allow the fluid that has accumulated in it to drain out. A catheter (tube) may be left in the cyst for up to six weeks after the procedure. However, this is only common with recurring Bartholin’s cysts. The purpose of the catheter is to keep the wound open so that any fluid that has built up can drain away immediately. Keeping the cyst open prevents fluid from accumulating and also allows natural healing.
If your cyst appears infected, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics after surgery. It is important to continue taking the antibiotics until the end of the prescribed course and to remember to take the medication at all times, as skipped tablets can reduce the effectiveness of the antibiotics. You will also be given antibiotics if you test positive for STDs, whether your cyst is infected or not. The point is to prevent infection because a positive test result increases your risk that your cyst could subsequently become infected.
Ask your doctor about marsupialization.
If your cyst keeps coming back, you can talk to your doctor about a procedure called marsupialization. Your cyst is surgically drained. It is then held open with stitches on both sides after the procedure. This opening is permanent and is designed to prevent the cyst from recurring. You will likely have a catheter in the wound for a few days after surgery, but it can be removed because the stitches will be strong enough to keep the wound open.
Have your Bartholin’s cyst removed completely.
If you have a particularly bad or recurring cyst, one of the “last resorts” is the complete surgical removal of your Bartholin’s cyst or laser treatment. Both are simple procedures that do not require an overnight stay in the hospital.
Note that there is no known way to prevent Bartholin’s cysts.
Although many people ask if there are strategies to avoid (or reduce the risk of) developing Bartholin’s cysts, medical professionals caution that no known prevention strategies exist. Doctors recommend starting either home or medical treatment as soon as you notice a cyst developing. Avoid using strong chemical agents, as they can cause major damage.
Recovered after surgical drainage
Continue your regular sitz baths.
After surgical drainage or marsupialization, the key to healing is continued regular sitz baths. Again, the sitz baths are there to ensure that the area is clean. The healing process should be maximized while minimizing the risk of infection. It is advisable to start the sitz baths one or two days after the surgical procedure.
Refrain from intercourse until your catheter is removed.
You can have a catheter four to six weeks after your surgery to keep your Bartholin’s cyst open and prevent fluid from building up further. Avoiding sexual intercourse while the catheter is in place is imperative. Not having sex during this time will also help prevent your cyst from becoming infected. After marsupialization, you will be advised to refrain from sexual intercourse for four weeks after the procedure to ensure complete healing.
Take pain medication if needed.
You can take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or acetaminophen (acetaminophen) if needed. Alternatively, if the pain is more severe, you can ask your doctor to prescribe stronger pain relievers (narcotics) such as morphine during the early stages of your recovery.