For many women, ovulation passes by without so much as a tummy twinge, making it tricky to detect those most fertile few days of your monthly cycle. For some women however, ovulation can bring with it abdominal pain and discomfort which, while unpleasant, is usually nothing to worry about.
What is ovulation pain?
Mittelschmerz (German for “middle pain”) is experienced by some as one-sided pain in the lower abdomen, associated with the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. This happens around 14 days before your period, based on a regular 28-day cycle. If your period is longer or shorter than 28 days, or if it is irregular, you may notice a few days’ variation in when ovulation occurs – if it occurs at all for you that month. Ovulation pain is usually completely normal and is generally considered nothing to worry about – just another one of those lovely side effects linked with periods!
How does it feel?
The pain associated with ovulation is usually mild and is often described as dull and achy – similar to menstrual cramps – or sudden and sharp. It can last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of days and can be accompanied by some light spotting as the follicle ruptures and the egg breaks through the small sac on the ovary.
Most women who experience mittelschmerz report pain on either the left- or right-hand side of the tummy, depending on which ovary is releasing the egg that month. The pain may switch sides every month, or you may feel pain on the same side for several months.
Many women experience no pain at all or may mistake PMS symptoms for those associated with ovulation.
How to treat ovulation pain
Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and long soaks in a warm bath can help to ease the pain associated with ovulation. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen are not recommended if you are trying to get pregnant.
Birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill or implant can also stop ovulation pain as they stop the ovulation process from occurring altogether.
When to seek medical advice
If the pain you experience is severe, is accompanied by nausea or fever, or if you are at all worried, speak to your GP so they can rule out any underlying medical conditions. It can help to keep a record of when the pain occurs, how it feels and how long it lasts. Your GP will also be able to advise on additional treatment options if necessary.
Is tracking ovulation pain useful when trying to conceive?
If the pain you experience is regular and fits into the categories above, mittelschmerz can be a useful way of tracking when your most fertile days are if you are trying to get pregnant. However, as ovulation pain does not occur for all women and may not occur every month, it can also be helpful to look at additional methods of tracking your monthly cycle to work out when your most fertile days of the month are. Here you can read about the additional signs to look out for as indicators of ovulation approaching or taking place.
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett