Ovulation pain is less understood compared to menstrual pain. However, it affects many women, at least once in their lifetime. Here’s a blog post to help you understand this common gynecological health condition better.

What is Ovulation Pain?

First, let us discuss ovulation. It refers to a phase in the menstrual cycle wherein one of the ovaries releases an egg (ovum). It occurs mid-cycle, which means on about day 14th of a 28-day menstrual cycle. It is during this time that some women may experience ovulation pain. Its intensity and duration vary from one woman to the other. However, severe pain and discomfort indicate gynecological conditions, including endometriosis.

Why Does Ovulation Pain Happen?

The rapid increase in the luteinizing hormone (LH) is the primary reason for ovulation cramps. It increases 24-36 hours before ovulation and prepares the ovaries to release an unfertilized egg by tightening the muscles in or around them. During this process, the two possible reasons for pain include an emerging ovarian follicle or a ruptured ovarian follicle.

An emerging ovarian follicle (fluid-filled sac) is one that survives to maturity and stretches the membrane of the ovary while growing. This expansion within the ovary may cause ovulation pain. Alternatively, a ruptured follicle results from the tear caused by a mature egg bursting out of it. The process causes some bleeding that might irritate the peritoneum (abdominal lining) and trigger the pain. Ovulation pain usually occurs mid-cycle; however, research suggests a broader ovulation range—about 7-19 days before menstruation.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ovulation Pain?

The pain usually occurs about a fortnight before the period. Ovulation pain may include:

  • Mild to severe pain on either side of the lower abdomen
  • Pain that lasts a few minutes to 48 hours
  • Pain that alternates between the right and left side of the lower abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Spotting

How to Know If You Are Experiencing Ovulation Pain?

Ovulation pain starts a few years after menstruation and may not be felt every cycle. Tracking the details of ovulation pain can help you know if you need to consult your healthcare provider. The following steps may help determine if you are experiencing ovulation pain.

  • Use a period-tracking app or a calendar to track when you feel the pain. It is likely to be ovulation pain if it happens mid-cycle.
  • Note where you feel the pain. Pain during ovulation is typically felt on either side or both.
  • Record the duration of the pain. Ovarian pain typically lasts 48 hours.
  • Track ovulation for at least two days.
  • Track the intensity of the pain. Ovulation pain may feel like mild spasms, intermittent and throbbing pain, or stabbing pain. Continuous or sporadic severe pain indicates a possibility of a more serious issue.

What Can Be Mistaken for Ovulation Pain?

The pain and cramps in the following medical conditions can be mistaken for ovulation pain:

  • Endometriosis: A painful disorder wherein uterine tissue grows outside the uterus. It involves the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic region, leading to pain and inflammation.
  • Ectopic pregnancy: A fetus cannot survive outside the uterus. However, a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus in an ectopic or extrauterine pregnancy.
  • Scar Tissue: Sometimes, the scars resulting from a C-section or any other surgery in the female reproductive region may develop into lumps or masses, causing pain and bleeding.
  • Chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: It refers to the infection in the uterus, fallopian tube, or ovaries.
  • Salpingitis: A bacterial infection that causes inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
  • Ovarian Cysts: Formation of fluid-filled sacs on or in the ovaries.
  • Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix leading to pain in the lower belly or around the navel.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Infection or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract causes bloating, pain, and nausea.
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease: Cramps in the pelvic region may be a symptom of STDs, primarily chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis.

How is Ovulation Pain Diagnosed?

Physical examination of the pelvic is one of the first steps to diagnose ovulation pain. Depending on your medical history, your OBGYN may also recommend several tests to determine whether ovulation pain is risk-free or caused by an underlying medical condition. These tests include blood work, abdominal ultrasound, cervical cultures, vaginal ultrasound, and laparoscopy.

How Is Ovulation Pain Treated?

Ovulation pain goes away by itself in most cases. However, if the pain affects your productivity or routine, ask your doctor if you can take over-the-counter pain medications. Sitting in a tub full of warm water or applying a heating pad on the lower abdomen may also help alleviate the pain.

Talk to your healthcare provider for severe ovulation pain. They may prescribe birth control pills to stop ovulation, resulting in no ovulation pain. However, you might want to discuss other treatment options if you wish to get pregnant.

Mid-cycle pain simply indicates ovulation for those who menstruate. However, several other conditions can cause pelvic pain. Therefore, it is wise to pay attention to the timing, duration, and intensity of ovulation pain and consult your healthcare provider if any symptom seems unusual.

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