Research Shows 1 in 5 Women Experience Ovulation Pain, Yet it Doesn’t Get Discussed as Much as Menstrual Pain

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I can tell when I ovulate every month because I get a cramp like feeling on the right side of my pelvis. It’s like a sharp pain that lasts for a couple of hours. It’s weird and uncomfortable but I can still go about my regular activities.

I have been having ovulation cramps for years, and nobody I ever told about it had any idea what was going on or even believed me including my obgyn, family members, friends.  So when I started looking online for possible cramps before periods, I found out, like me, ovulation pain is a thing for many women. 

For something so common among a significant group of women, it’s rarely talked about, even though up to 50% of women will experience ovulation pain at least once in their lives. And about 20% of them experience ovulation cramps every month.

It’s such a shame that women are taught so little of our bodies.

Ovulation pain is also referred to as “mittelschmerz” and depending on the severity, they could be perfectly normal.

What is Ovulation Pain

Mittelschmerz comes from the German words for “middle” and “pain.”

It’s probably related to the fluid that can gather in the pelvis after ovulation, immediately after the ovary recruits and spills out into the pelvis. 

“The pain could be related to the ovarian follicle stretching your ovary before it bursts, or from the blood or fluid that is released from the follicle that irritates the lining of your abdomen or pelvis and causes pain,” Dr. Katharine O’Connell White who is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston Medical Center, says. “It’s unclear if the pain occurs at the very moment an egg is released, or if it occurs sometime before or after.”

If it’s not abundantly clear already, ovulation pain is not an isolated or abnormal experience. And yet, we don’t talk nearly as much about it as menstrual cramps women go through during their periods. If this  topic were a standard in education, women’s health publications, social media, or even pop culture, I (and other women who have no idea what’s happening to their body) wouldn’t have carried on the scary feeling that something was wrong with me.

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What is Ovulation Pain Like?

It could be due to a number of factors. Pain related to ovulation varies from woman to woman and cycle to cycle. There are lots of women out there who breeze through ovulation without a hint of discomfort, while others are housebound, nursing what feels like a mini storm in their abdomen. It is likely, then, with such a wide difference in experiences of ovulation pain being relatively universal, we turn the spotlight on — Call for more conversations. 

Surprisingly, ovulation cramps isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be, which means awareness often falls short. It’s no wonder that sometimes, it gets mistaken for just another bout of indigestion, and unnecessary fear. This leads to a frustrating cycle where ovulation cramps remain in the shadows, unnoticed and unacknowledged for what they truly are.

Note, for those who don’t keep track, ovulation can be as unpredictable as the weather. People who get this pain may not get it every month. The lack of a clear pattern, then, can throw one off, and be challenging to trace.

How to Recognize Ovulation Pain

Ovulation pain is not a secret language your body speaks, but it’s distinct (especially for those familiar menstrual cramps). It’s a one-sided occurrence from your lower abdomen, it’s determined by which ovary decides to release an egg, accompanied by pain that may even make you feel a tad bloated. Sometimes it’s a sudden, sharp sensation, while other times, it’s more of a dull ache. In some cases, it can even make you feel a bit queasy. 

The kicker, it can stick around for a few hours, a day, or sometimes even two days. That’s perfectly normal, for most women, this abdominal sensation or cramping in the middle of your cycle is just a sign that your body is ovulating, and will go soon.

According to experts, the intensity or presence of these ovulation cramps has no bearing on fertility. So, having a bout of mittelschmerz doesn’t make you more fertile than the next person. 

It’s not clear why that happens, but maybe it’s just one of those quirks that your body just choose to share with you during the monthly fertility tango.

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Although ovulation pain does not pose any health risk unless you’re experiencing serious pain that interferes with your life, such as inducing fever, diarrhea, or dizziness. If it’s also accompanied with difficulty with breathing, then you should reach out to your doctor. It could turn out to be normal, it can also turn out to be a common experience for women living with IBS and IBD. But it’s likely to point to underlying health conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, appendicitis, PCOS, ovarian cysts, or even endometriosis.

It’s sometimes advised to use heating pads, or pain relievers. Women also consider birth control pills, (you can talk to your doctor about it), the problem is,  it’s likely to stop the process of ovulation rather than making it painless. But if the pain is so bad that even painkillers aren’t working, it’s time to see your doctor, instead of finding other means. 


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