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Is Ovulation Pain Normal?

Does It Really Signal Ovulation, Why Does It Happen, and When Should I Worry?

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Updated August 12, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Woman with hand over ovulation pain / abdomen

The side from which you feel ovulation pain may actually indicate which ovary you ovulated from!

Photo: Brejeq / iStock

Ovulation pain is experienced at least once by up to 50% of women, with about 20% of women experiencing ovulation pain every month. What is ovulation pain? Is ovulation pain a reliable sign of ovulation? Is it always normal?

What's Normal?

Ovulation pain, or pain around the time of ovulation (since it doesn't necessarily happen at the very moment you ovulate), varies from woman to woman.

Some experience a dull, achy feeling, which lasts for a few hours or even over a couple days. Other women experience a sudden, sharp pain, lasting just a moment.

Ovulation pain is typically mild in nature, but it's been known to land some women in the emergency room for suspected appendicitis. Though such a severe reaction is rare, it does happen.

Another term for ovulation pain is mittelschmerz, which is German for "middle pain," referring to the mid-way point in a woman's cycle when ovulation takes place.

Does "Ovulation Pain" Really Signal Ovulation?

Ovulation pain does seem to coincide with ovulation, with one study finding that ovulation pain came on the same day that the hormone LH peaked. (LH is the hormone detected by ovulation predictor kits, and generally signals your most fertile time.)

Another study confirmed ovulation using ultrasound, finding that ovulation occurred within a couple days after reporting of ovulation pain.

However, a bit of gas could be mistaken for ovulation pain, and some women may feel twinges after ovulation. I wouldn't recommend using ovulation pain as a primary way to detect your fertile window, but it can help confirm other signs of ovulation.

Why Does Ovulation Pain Occur?

No one is really sure what causes ovulation pain.

A few theories are that the extra fluid, released when the follicle ruptures releasing the egg, causes some irritation, leading to a dull ache.

Another theory is that the sharp, sudden pain some women feel may be caused by the egg itself, bursting out from the follicle.

Spasms of the fallopian tubes or uterus as ovulation approaches may be another possible cause.

Here's something interesting about ovulation pain: the side you feel it on may signal which ovary you actually ovulated from.

You may notice that the pain is more frequently on one side than the other. While you may have been taught that the ovaries "take turn ovulating" from month to month, it's actually normal for one side to do more of the ovulating work than the other.

When Should You Worry?

While ovulation pain is common, severe pain around ovulation should be checked out, especially if you're taking fertility drugs. Severe stomach pain that comes during or just after ovulation, while taking fertility drugs, could be ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

If the pain is severe, or is accompanied by vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, or trouble breathing, contact a doctor right away, even if you're not taking fertility drugs. You may be confusing "ovulation pain" for something more serious like appendicitis.

Also, if you find yourself experiencing pain around ovulation that interferes with your daily life, or pain that makes having sex to get pregnant difficult, you should let your doctor know.

Intense pelvic pain around the time of ovulation or during sex can also be a symptom of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

More on how to get pregnant:

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Sources:

Hann LE, Hall DA, Black EB, Ferrucci JT Jr. "Mittelschmerz. Sonographic demonstration." Journal of the American Medical Association. Jun 22 1979; 241(25):2731-2.

Marinho AO, Sallam HN, Goessens L, Collins WP, Campbell S. "Ovulation side and occurrence of mittelschmerz in spontaneous and induced ovarian cycles." British Medical Journal. Feb 27, 1982; 284(6316):632.

 

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Fertility
  4. Ovulation, Sex for Pregnancy, and Reproduction Basics
  5. All About Ovulation Signs and Detecting Ovulation
  6. Is Ovulation Pain Normal?

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