When a woman ovulates, her ovaries will release an egg, along with follicular fluid and blood. For many women, normal ovulation will not be accompanied by any symptoms, but some women routinely experience pain and discomfort when ovulation occurs. This symptom is sometimes called “mittelschmerz”, which is German for “middle” (because ovulation occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle) and “pain”. This article will help you figure out how to recognize and deal with painful ovulation.
Method 1 of 2: Recognizing Painful Ovulation
Step 1. Understand your menstrual cycle
The menstrual cycle is calculated from the first day of the menstrual phase (or “first day” of the menstrual cycle) to the first day of the next menstrual cycle. In general, a cycle usually lasts 28 days, but if you chart your menstrual cycle on a calendar, there's a good chance that your cycle will be longer or shorter. During the first half of your menstrual cycle (before ovulation), you have your period, the uterine lining thickens again, and hormones start working to trigger ovulation. During the second half of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation), the egg may be fertilized, or else the body prepares to shed the uterine lining again.
- Your menstrual cycle may vary by a few days each month, and you shouldn't worry about it.
- However, if your menstrual cycle varies significantly (with a difference of a week or more over a period of several months), you should consult your doctor.
- While there are many factors that cause menstrual cycles to vary and most are not worrying, there are some that can be managed with medication, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (a condition in which the frequency of menstruation is very infrequent due to a hormonal imbalance). Consulting a doctor is the best option if you have any doubts.
Step 2. Know when you ovulate
Ovulation usually occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle. For example, if a woman has a menstrual cycle of 28 days, that means ovulation occurs around day 14. If you think you're having a painful ovulation, charting your menstrual cycle over several months can help pinpoint the exact time of ovulation.
- The second half of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation) tends to be consistent in all women, at 14 days (14 days before the start of the next menstruation). Therefore, if you happen to have longer or shorter intervals between periods (compared to the average cycle of 28 days), know that ovulation can be calculated by determining 14 days before the first day of each period.
- Understand that ovulation occurs when an egg is released by the ovaries. The event results in a rupture of the ovarian membrane where the egg comes out, and this condition can be accompanied by bleeding and a feeling of pressure. Many women feel nothing, but for some, the presence of blood in the abdominal cavity and pressure against the ovarian membranes can be a source of nagging discomfort.
Step 3. Pay attention to your symptoms
If you experience pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis or pressure around the middle of your menstrual cycle, and if this pain goes away within a day and doesn't come back until your next ovulation, chances are you did have painful ovulation. (The pain can be caused by other internal organs, but if the pain is accompanied by a specific pattern that repeats almost every menstrual cycle it is usually due to ovulation.)
- You may notice that the pain only occurs on one side of the abdomen at a time. This happens because ovulation only occurs on one side only, and will be different in each menstrual cycle (does not move from one side to the other side by side, but occurs randomly).
- Pain during ovulation is sometimes accompanied by light vaginal bleeding, or it can also cause nausea.
- Pain due to ovulation may last for a few hours or it could be as long as two or three days.
- About 20% of women experience pain mid-menstrual cycle due to ovulation. In most cases, the pain is relatively mild, but in some cases it is severe and unbearable.
Step 4. Consult a doctor
As long as your symptoms are not severe, painful ovulation can be considered harmless. However, it is important to consult a doctor and make sure that there are no other causes of the pain (such as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or if the pain worsens over a period of time, it could be due to a more severe and urgent condition such as appendicitis)..
Method 2 of 2: Treating Painful Ovulation
Step 1. Just wait
If your symptoms are mild, or if they tend to go away quickly (some women only experience pain for a few minutes), you may not need to take any action.
Step 2. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever
Basic pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen should help relieve symptoms. Follow the directions for use listed on the packaging, and do not exceed the recommended dose.
- Know that different women find different over-the-counter medications to be more effective than others, and this varies from woman to woman. If you find that one medication isn't working as well, don't hesitate to try another, because a different medication may be more suitable for you.
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers (such as ibuprofen and/or naproxen) are known to cause problems for people who have been diagnosed with kidney or stomach problems. If you fall into this category, consult your doctor before taking the drug. Or, if you experience symptoms of abdominal pain after taking medication, consult your doctor for further advice.
Step 3. Use heat
Some women report that heat pads can relieve symptoms. Place the heat pad on your lower abdomen, and repeat as needed.
- Heat can increase blood flow to the affected area, relax muscles, and reduce cramps, which is why it can be used to treat problems.
- Some women also report that an ice pack or cold pack can help relieve pain. So you can try both and see which one suits you best.
Step 4. Take a shower
A warm bath or bath can have a heat-cushion effect, which can relax you and relieve symptoms.
Step 5. Consider taking the contraceptive pill
If the symptoms are bothersome, you can try hormonal birth control pills. Doctor-prescribed contraceptive pills are used to prevent pregnancy, in part by stopping ovulation. If you start taking hormonal birth control pills, you will no longer ovulate, and the painful ovulation process will disappear.
- Know that the contraceptive pill is the only effective way to prevent ovulation pain because it stops ovulation altogether (by suppressing natural hormone production and as a result ovulation does not occur).
- Thus, the contraceptive pill is the most effective method of dealing with painful ovulation if home remedies (such as the use of heat or cold) and over-the-counter medications don't help.
- Visit your doctor to discuss the pros and cons of using the contraceptive pill and whether this option is right for you. You may also need to chart your menstrual cycle for a few months and show it to your doctor so he or she can get a clearer picture of what's going on, and maybe give a more specific diagnosis.
Step 6. Watch for symptoms that may result from a more serious health problem
For many women, painful ovulation is annoying, but it is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. However, more serious symptoms are considered abnormal and need to be watched out for. If the pain lasts for more than two or three days, or if mid-cycle pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:
- Peeing hurts
- Redness or swelling of the skin around the abdomen or pelvis
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Great vaginal bleeding
- Vagina produces abnormal secretions
- Swelling of the stomach
- Charting the menstrual cycle can, for several reasons, be useful. This chart will help ensure that the pain occurs at the same time as ovulation. The chart will also show you when your period should occur and help you understand when you are at your most fertile. In addition, if you have “mittelschmerz” or other menstrual, reproductive, or sexual problems, an accurate menstrual cycle chart can help your doctor make a diagnosis and treatment.
- Some women who never experienced ovulation-related symptoms in their teens or twenties begin to experience painful ovulation symptoms after reaching their thirties. As long as your symptoms are mild and don't come with the warning signs listed above, you probably don't need to worry.
- You may notice that the pain moves, every month, from the lower abdomen on one side to the other. The reason is that ovulation moves from one ovary to another at the same time as the new cycle (the transfer does not occur alternately every month, but randomly, depending on which ovary releases an egg each month).