An English woman looked “nine months pregnant” due to an ovarian cyst she mistook for a baby as it grew to the size of a football inside of her stomach.
Hollie Welham, 21, believed she was expecting after she started feeling nauseated and noticed her stomach growing in January. But when all the tests came back negative, Welham 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, and while waiting for surgery to get it removed, Welham watched has her stomach “grew and grew” each day.
By the time she had laparoscopic surgery in May, the cyst had grown to 27cm (10.6 inches) – larger that a football – and Welham’s stomach and ballooned in size due to fluid buildup.
A surgeon at Musgrove Hospital in Taunton, England, successfully removed the cyst, along with her right ovary and fallopian tube, and Welham shrunk back to her normal size 8 frame.
Welham, a health care assistant, from Somerset, 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, Hollie began experiencing symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and stomach cramps. She also struggled to fit into some of her clothes and felt extremely bloated.
Welham 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, she started experiencing irregular bleeding throughout the month. She booked an appointment with the general practitioner to see what was causing the issues.
Welham said 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, Welham managed to undergo a scan that revealed she had a large cyst growing on her right ovary. By this point, Welham said her stomach felt “solid” and she was continuing to bloat due to a buildup of fluid.
“At the first scan, it was measuring in at about 18cm [7 inches] big,” she said.
“I read anything over 10cm [3.9 inches] 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.”
Welham was booked for surgery in May at Musgrove Hospital, where doctors performed keyhole surgery to remove the cyst. By the time the cyst was removed, it had grown larger than 27cm (10.6 inches) – around the size of a football.
“They had to remove my ovary as well because the cysts had grown inside of it,” she said.
“It shouldn’t affect my fertility – you can still have children with one ovary, it just might take longer.”
Welham said she had “great support from my family and boyfriend Isaac, 20,” and while her stomach is still sore and bloated, “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.”