Ovulation pain, also known as mittelschmerz, is a one-sided lower abdominal pain that some women experience when they ovulate. Ovulation is the time of the menstrual cycle when the ovary releases a mature ovum into the fallopian tube.
Pain during ovulation is a common phenomenon experienced by one in five women (1). However, the duration and intensity of the pain vary from one woman to another. In most cases, it either subsides on its own or can be managed using simple remedies.
Read this post to learn more about the symptoms, causes, treatments, and home remedies for ovulation pain.
Where Does Ovulation Pain Occur?
Ovulation pain typically occurs either in the middle or on one side of the lower abdomen and pelvis. You will usually feel the pain on the side where the ovary releases the egg (2).
Since the ovaries take turns to release the eggs every month, the pain may switch from one side to the other after each cycle. However, a study has found that the frequency of ovulation from the right-sided ovary is more than the left-sided ovary (3).
Is Ovulation Pain The Same As Period Pain?
Although ovulation pain and period pain might feel similar, you can differentiate them based on when and where they are experienced.
Ovulation pain is felt on one side of the abdomen, somewhere around the middle of the menstrual cycle (two weeks before menstrual bleeding). In contrast, period pain is felt in the lower abdomen before and during menstrual bleeding (2).
What Are The Symptoms Of Ovulation Pain?
- Dull cramps to sharp twinges.
- Mild vaginal bleeding.
- Vaginal discharge.
What Causes Painful Ovulation?
According to these theories, ovulation is the release of the eggs from the ovarian follicle (a sac) into the fallopian tube. The stretching of this follicle just before the egg releases and the inflammation and rupture created in response to this might cause the pain. The blood or fluid released during the rupture of the ovarian follicle can irritate the abdominal lining, resulting in pain.
Other Possible Causes Of Ovulation Pain
Pain during ovulation is normal. However, in some rare cases, ovulation pain can be related to other underlying causes. These causes might need prompt attention from your healthcare provider.
1. Cysts: Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that are found inside or outside the ovary. Small cysts are generally harmless and resolve on their own. However, larger cysts or cysts that have ruptured might cause ovarian pain and need medical intervention (6).
2. Endometriosis or adhesions: Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease in which tissue similar to the one that forms the inner lining of the uterus grows on its outer surface (7).
An adhesion, on the other hand, is a scar tissue that joins two internal body surfaces that are not usually connected. It is often formed when the body repairs itself after a surgery or injury (8).
Both endometriosis and pelvic or abdominal adhesions can lead to pain.
3. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammation and ovulation cramps (9).
4. Ectopic pregnancy: Ectopic pregnancy is a type of pregnancy that happens outside the uterus in the fallopian tube, ovary, and rarely, in the abdomen. Although rare, this condition can cause severe pelvic pain and needs the attention of a healthcare provider.
5. Urinary disorders: Urinary tract infections can affect the kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a urinary disorder that causes bladder pain and pelvic pain as the bladder extends (10).
6. Menstrual cramps: Menstrual cramps are lower abdominal pain experienced before or during menstrual bleeding. These cramps can often be confused with ovulation cramps because of how similar they feel.
7. Constipation: When the lower colon is affected due to constipation, it might give rise to ovulation pain. This pain generally subsides as soon as bowel movement is regularized.
Diagnosis And Tests
Usually, ovulation pain is not something to be alarmed about, but if the cramps become severe, it is best to get it evaluated by a healthcare provider. Tests are usually done to ensure you are experiencing normal cyclic pain and there are no other underlying medical conditions (11).
Some of the ways in which ovulation pain is diagnosed are
- Medical history
- Abdominal and pelvic examination
- Abdominal and vaginal ultrasounds
- Blood tests
- Evaluation of cervical mucus
- Exploratory surgery, such as laparoscopy
How Is Painful Ovulation Treated?
- Take over-the-counter pain-relieving medications.
- Consult your doctor for anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or Aleve.
- If the pain becomes intolerable, talk to your doctor about hormonal contraceptive pills (birth control pills) that can stop ovulation.
Home Remedies To Relieve Ovulation Pain
Mild to moderate ovulation pain can be treated with some effective home remedies (11).
- Use a heating pad or take a warm bath to relax the muscles and relieve the pain.
- Include more dark leafy vegetables in your diet to keep constipation as well as bloating at bay.
- Research shows that getting some sun or taking vitamin D supplements can reduce discomfort or cramps (12).
- Do mild exercise to stretch the muscles
- Get enough rest.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does pain during ovulation feel like?
The intensity of the pain varies from one woman to another. Some women may feel slight discomfort or mild cramp, while others may feel a sharp twinge.
2. Can painful ovulation be prevented?
There’s no specific way to prevent painful ovulation. However, taking adequate rest, staying relaxed, taking hot water baths, and taking over-the-counter pain-relieving drugs can help you manage the pain.
Ovulation pain is often benign and can be managed with easy home remedies. The pain may neither indicate any health condition nor affect the fertility of a woman. On the contrary, if tracked regularly, you can use these cramps as a good indicator to monitor your ovulation. However, if you experience severe pain, talk to your healthcare provider and find the best solution.
- Ovulation Pain (Mittelschmerz).
- M Fukuda et al.; (2000); Right-sided ovulation favours pregnancy more than left-sided ovulation.
- Ovulation pain.
- Sonya S. Dasharathy et al.; (2012); Menstrual Bleeding Patterns Among Regularly Menstruating Women.
- Ovarian cysts.
- What is Interstitial Cystitis (IC)?
- Ovulation pain.
- Ask the PharmD: What role do vitamin D supplements play in treating dysmenorrhea?.