Ovulation refers to the release of a mature egg (ovum) from the ovary into the uterine tubes. After being released, the egg moves through the fallopian tube where it can be fertilized by the sperm. Thus, pregnancy is possible when you have sex during the 5 days before ovulation (sperms are known to survive for up to 5 days in the woman’s reproductive tract) or on the day of ovulation. The most fertile days for a woman, however, are the 3 days leading up to and including ovulation. Some women report pelvic pain during ovulation. This is called ovulation pain or “mittelschmerz” (derived from a German term meaning “middle” and “pain” since ovulation typically occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle).
Thus, ovulation pain may be taken as a sign of fertility although the absence of ovulation pain does not mean that you are not fertile. Many women may not experience any ovulation pain. Ovulation pain is often used by some people to plan or avoid a pregnancy. Since the chances of getting pregnant are higher if you have sex when you are ovulating, hence being aware of the ovulation pain can help you know whether you are ovulating. In this way, you can plan the timing of sexual intercourse if you are planning to get pregnant. Ovulation pain, however, is not a reliable way for avoiding pregnancy. Other methods of birth control (such as condoms, intrauterine devices or IUDs, and contraceptive pills) must be considered instead.
What causes the ovulation pain?
Ovulation pain is generally a part of the normal menstrual cycle. The developing egg is surrounded by follicular cells. These cells along with the egg form a sac-like structure called the ovarian follicle containing a fluid called follicular fluid. When ovulation occurs, the egg is released along with the follicular fluid and some blood. Ovulation pain occurs because of several reasons, such as enlargement of the egg in the ovary and the ruptured follicle. The egg bursts from the follicle during ovulation causing some bleeding. Both blood and fluid from the ruptured follicle can irritate the lining of the abdomen (called peritoneum), causing ovulation pain.
How does the ovulation pain feel like?
Ovulation pain may be felt as a mild twinge or cramp. Some people may report severe discomfort. The pain is generally felt in the lower abdomen and pelvis. It may be felt in the middle or on one side. Since in most people the ovaries take turns during ovulation (one ovary releases an egg during one menstrual cycle, the other releases egg during the next menstrual cycle, and so on), the pain may be felt on one side (the side where the ovary is releasing an egg). The pain may last for a few minutes or up to a few hours. There may be other symptoms, such as vaginal discharge, vaginal swelling, rise in body temperature, and light spotting.
Should I be worried about ovulation pain?
Ovulation pain is generally a normal part of the menstrual cycle. You may need to contact your doctor if:
- The pain is more severe than usual.
- The pain lasts longer than usual.
- There is vaginal bleeding along with the pain.
- You develop other symptoms, such as fever, loss of weight, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
Medically Reviewed on 4/1/2021