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Pain during Ovulation

Updated on February 17, 2014

Ovulation pain is the aching or discomfort experienced by some women when they are ovulating. This kind of pain is also referred to as Mittelschmerz, a German term that means “middle pain”. A number of women suffer from this type of abdominal pain during ovulation which takes place approximately two weeks before menstruation or midway through the menstrual cycle. The level of ovulation pain experienced by women ranges from slight to very intense. Minor pain does not require medical attention as home remedies or simple pain relievers are sufficient to ease the discomfort. However, if it is severe or impedes the woman from doing her regular activities, drugs or contraceptives may be prescribed.

What is Ovulation?

Ovulation is that time of the month when the woman’s ovary releases an egg for fertilization. For those with regular menstrual cycles, this happens somewhere between the 12th and 14th day or midway of an average 28-day cycle. When the ovary lets loose a mature egg, it will travel through the fallopian tube. The wall of the uterus, meanwhile, thickens in preparation for the possible fertilization of the egg. If conception doesn’t take place, menstruation will occur wherein the unfertilized egg as well as the uterine lining will be discharged from the body.

What are the Causes of Ovulation Pain?

Not all women suffer from abdominal pain when they are ovulating. In fact, only around half of the female population experiences any kind of discomfort or cramping during ovulation. Though the exact reason behind Mittelschmerz is not proven, a few theories abound to try to explain why this kind of pain occurs.

  • Expanding follicle

During ovulation, the follicle which contains an ovum will enlarge as the ovum matures. This enlargement of the follicle stretches the ovary’s membrane thereby resulting in a painful sensation.

  • Bursting of the follicle

When the matured egg is released from the ovary, the follicle containing it ruptures and bleeds. The fluids and blood are believed to cause irritation to the abdominal wall which brings forth discomfort.

  • Contraction of the fallopian tubes

Pain and discomfort may arise when the fallopian tube contracts as the ovum is released from the ovary.

  • Underlying health problems

There are a number of medical conditions that could contribute to or trigger ovulation pain. This could be the case especially if the abdominal pain is really intense or prolonged. Some of these health issues are chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, salpingitis, polycystic ovary syndrome, ovarian fibroids or appendicitis. Certain gastrointestinal problems could also worsen or be confused with painful ovulation. These include gastroenteritis, ulcer and inflammatory bowel disease.

What are the Symptoms of Ovulation Pain?

The discomfort felt during ovulation varies significantly between each woman. For one, the pain may last for a few minutes only for some women, whereas others may suffer from it for hours or even as long as 2 days. The pain originates from one side of the lower abdomen, depending on which ovary produced the ovum. This could differ between ovulation periods since either of the ovaries could generate the mature egg in each cycle. The intensity of the pain and the kind of discomfort likewise differs from woman to woman. Some are lucky to only feel a slight discomfort that goes away on its own or with the aid of over the counter pain relievers. Others, on the other hand, are not as fortunate as they have to deal with sharp pain and severe cramping.

What are the Treatment and Management Methods of Ovulation Pain?

Management of pain during ovulation is based on the kind of discomfort experienced. For many cases, the pain will resolve itself in a few hours so there is not much that needs to be done. Some women make use of over the counter pain medications to address the pain. Rest, use of warm compress on the painful side as well as a warm bath can help in alleviating the discomfort of ovulation. For those who have severely painful ovulation, the doctor may prescribe oral contraceptives to prevent the woman from ovulating, and hence, stop mittelschmerz.

When should Ovulation Pain be a Cause of Concern?

Not all women suffer from painful ovulation, and of those who do, many handle it pretty well. However, if the abdominal pain or discomfort is so intense that it hinders the woman from doing her day-to-day activities she should see her OB-Gyne. In addition, she should consult her doctor if the ovulation pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain that continues for more than 3 days

  • Pain during urination

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Burning sensation

  • Redness at the area of the pain

  • Abnormal discharge or heavy bleeding

The doctor will have to evaluate the patient’s medical history and assess the symptoms. He or she may also require additional tests and diagnostic procedures to determine the underlying cause of ovulation pain so the appropriate treatment can commence.

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