A medical expert, Dr Julieet McGrattan, says women generally encounter different kinds of pain every month, from their periods to appendicitis and for some stomach ulcer. However, if this occurs every month in the middle of menstrual cycle, then there is a need to suspect ovulation pain.
McGrattan, in her recent interview published on yahoo.com said most women are unaware when one of their ovaries releases an egg. It happens painlessly, as part of a normal menstrual cycle. However some women may experience discomfort and even severe pain during this time.
Although, ovulation pain is harmless, she said it’s worth knowing what else might be causing your lower abdominal pain, so you know when to take action and what you can do to ease the pain. The coach and author explains ovulation pain, causes, symptoms and treatment options:
What is Ovulation?
Every month, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg, which then travels down the fallopian tube. If it meets sperm, it becomes fertilized and travels to your uterus, where it implants itself in the uterine lining which has thickened for this purpose. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the uterine lining and the egg are shed, causing you to get your period.
Why ovulation pain?
She noted that no scientist have been able to come up with the reason why ovulation cause pain and why women experience discomfort in the middle of their menstrual cycle, however, there is a theory that when the egg bursts out of the follicle it was growing in, there may be a small amount of fluid or blood released that irritates surrounding tissues and nerves.
What does ovulation pain feel like?
Every woman is different but here are some key facts about ovulation pain:
- Ovulation pain is usually a sharp pain.
- Sometimes ovulation pain is a dull cramp.
- The pain is usually in the lower abdomen and concentrated on one side.
- Ovulation pain may be on the right or the left, according to which ovary has released an egg.
- Sometimes the pain can spread more generally across the lower abdomen.
- Ovulation pain tends to come on fairly quickly and can last from a few minutes to one or two days.
- Ovulation pain might be very mild or it may feel extremely painful.
- Ovulation pain can hurt when you move around, press on the sore area, cough or jump.
- Mild backache is not uncommon with ovulation pain.
You might notice other changes in your body that go along with ovulation such as an increase in the amount and consistency of your vaginal discharge. If it becomes more slippery and resembles egg-white, then this is a sign that ovulation may have occurred.
You may also have a small amount of vaginal bleeding called ‘spotting’ around ovulation too.
When do you get ovulation pain?
Ovulation pain usually happens in the middle of the menstrual cycle. In fact, it is also known as mittelschmerz which is the German word for ‘middle pain’.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by a range of female hormones including oestrogen and progesterone. Day 1 of your menstrual cycle is when your period bleeding starts. At this point oestrogen and progesterone levels are both quite low. Over the next couple of weeks, the oestrogen level rises as your ovaries get ready to release an egg. The rising oestrogen triggers a surge in a hormone called luteinising hormone (LH) which sparks ovulation. This happens around day 14 in a woman with a 28-day menstrual cycle.
Not all women have a 28-day cycle and ovulate on day 14. It can vary from month to month and woman to woman. Some women have a shorter or longer cycle. Some women don’t ovulate in every cycle, such as those who have polycystic ovary syndrome. If you want to know when you ovulated, then a better calculation is 14 days before your period rather than 14 days after it began.
Who gets ovulation pain?
Any menstruating woman can have pain when an egg is released from the ovary. This may happen every month, every now and then or as a one-off.
Not all women get pain from ovulation. The majority of women are unaware they have ovulated or any discomfort they feel is minor and goes unnoticed or is attributed to something else such as wind or a twinge from a muscle.
You are more likely to get ovulation pain if you have any scarring of the tissues around the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Scarring, also called ‘adhesions’ can happen as a result of a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or as a result of surgery to the womb, ovaries or bowel. Ovulation pain is also more common in women who have endometriosis because the ovaries and fallopian tubes can be inflamed and sensitive.
If you are in acute or worsening pain don’t try to self-diagnose any of the above, make an urgent appointment with your doctor if you are concerned.
How is ovulation pain diagnosed?
Thankfully, ovulation pain isn’t usually severe. It’s most commonly a niggly pain that doesn’t last long enough and isn’t severe enough for you to be concerned enough to see a doctor. Looking at the timing of the pain in relation to your menstrual cycle is the key to diagnosing it. You’ll realise that each time it happens it’s a couple of weeks before your period.
If you are tracking your menstrual cycle for fertility reasons and trying to spot ovulation by measuring your temperature, checking your vaginal discharge or using an ovulation kit, then it will be easy to link the pain to your mid-cycle.
Occasionally ovulation pain can be severe and you may end up seeing a doctor as an emergency worrying that something else is going on. The doctor will ask you lots of questions and examine you to work out the cause of the pain. Unless it is impossible for you to be pregnant they will do a pregnancy test to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. This is unlikely if you haven’t missed a period but because an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy (where the foetus grows in the fallopian tubes) can be life threatening to the mother, they will need to exclude it.
If you have severe abdominal pain, you should be assessed by a doctor. Sometimes admission to hospital is needed for further urgent investigations such as blood tests and scans to look for ovarian cysts or appendicitis.
How is ovulation pain treated?
There are a few things you can do if you have ovulation pain:
Get plenty of rest: Ovulation pain can sometimes make it hurt to walk around so take things easy.
Distract yourself: Pain is always worse when you focus on it so do things to keep your mind off it.
Use heat: A hot water bottle or a warm pack held on your lower tummy can ease ovulation pain and so can a nice warm bath.
Try paracetamol: Paracetamol is a good first step. If this isn’t giving you any relief after two hours then try ibuprofen, check with your pharmacist to make sure it is safe for you to take.