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7 Common Ovulation Pains and How to Ease Them

When releasing an egg, your body may act up. Here's what to do — and when to see a doctor.

ovulation pains and symptoms
  • Roughly 1 in 5 women experience mid-cycle ovulation pain.
  • While ovulation pain can be harmless, it can also sometimes be the sign of a more serious condition.
  • If you experience intense pain lasting several days or other signs of irregularity in your menstrual cycle, see your doctor as soon as possible.

    You're probably well-acquainted with the concept of PMS and all of the fun symptoms that come along with it. But you're probably less familiar with the terms "mid-cycle pain" or "mittelschmerz," a German word for "middle pain," that refers to the common ovulation pains that can occur in the lower abdomen. Although it can be pretty intense for some, ovulation pain is normal. About one in five menstruating people report this mid-cycle pain, according to Dr. Jimmy Belotte, an OB-GYN and the Medical Director for Niraparib Ovarian at GSK in Waltham, MA. So even if you’re unaware of the term, you may have experienced these aches and pains.

    What is ovulation?

    As an article from the American Pregnancy Association explains, ovulation occurs when a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries. The body prepares for this egg by thickening the lining of the uterus, a sign that the egg is ready to be fertilized by sperm. However, if fertilization (and therefore, conception) doesn't occur, then this lining and blood is shed, resulting in your period. Ovulation happens during the middle of a menstrual cycle. As the Mayo Clinic explains, a typical menstrual cycle is 28 days, with ovulation happening around the 14-day mark. However, every menstrual cycle is different, and yours may be longer or shorter.

    What causes ovulation pain?

    Ovarian follicles, the small fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries, release hormones and grow bigger during the menstrual cycle until they eventually rupture and release an egg. Usually, when women experience pain during ovulation, it's because the blood and fluid that surround the egg inside the follicle also get released in the abdomen when the egg is released.

    “If you’re mid-cycle and ovulating, the fluid and blood being released is generally the cause of the pain which irritates the abdominal cavity,” Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a women’s health expert in Santa Monica, California and the author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. Dr. Ross adds that "it may take hours or days for the fluid to be absorbed," but typically any sharp abdomen pain lasts around 24 hours. Overall, ovulation pain can last from a few minutes to 48 hours.

    The amount of pain can vary by person, too. “Pain related to ovulation varies woman to woman and cycle to cycle," Dr. Ross says. "There are many women who don’t experience any pain with ovulation, while others are bedridden from the pain."

    Signs of irregular ovulation

    For some, ovulation pains, like cramps, may be "a unilateral twinge," while for others, they can be more severe. While most ovulation pain is harmless, intense pain can sometimes be a sign of a more serious condition, like endometriosis. The best way to identify irregular ovulation is to pay attention to irregularity in your menstrual cycle as a whole, says Lilly Schott RNC, MSN IBCLC of Ovia Health. "If your cycle is irregular, it may indicate that you aren’t ovulating regularly or at all," Schott says. "People who experience signs of polycystic ovary syndrome are also more likely to have irregular or missed ovulation."

    If you suspect that something might be off with your ovulation or your cycle in general, the most important thing is to see a doctor. "Pain should never be ignored," Schott says. "The more information you can provide about symptoms during your cycle, the better they can prescribe preliminary lab work and other diagnostic tests. Creating a whole picture of what you’re experiencing is so valuable for your provider."

    Having said that, it's possible that your ovulation symptoms are more common than you think. Mittelschmerz sets off a series of symptoms that can all be traced back to the egg release. Here are seven of the most common ovulation pain issues, and how to mitigate the misery.

    Symptoms of ovulation pain

    The symptoms of ovulation pain can include:

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    Pain in the lower back
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    Since the ovaries are centrally located in the pelvis, it’s understandable that this process might lead to lower back pain. This can be sudden and targeted, or it might feel like a dull ache.

    "Women with a uterus that tilts backward, retroverted, tend to have worse back pain with their menstrual cycles," Dr. Renee Wellenstein, a double-board certified OB-GYN and functional medicine doctor, tells Woman's Day. "Retroversion of the uterus is common, with about one in five women having the condition."

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: Try stretches that target the lower back, reevaluate your posture, and make sure you’re getting plenty of rest (in a comfy bed). Still sore? Pop an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen. Wellenstein also suggests using warm compresses or natural remedies like magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant, or boswellia, a natural anti-inflammatory.

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    Are you experiencing cramps about 14 days from your period? Ovulation is likely the cause. "Cramping/back pain occurs as the uterus begins its shedding of the lining," says Dr. Kecia Gaither, a double board-certified OB-GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals. Products known as prostaglandins are released and can cause cramps as well as back pain.

    For some, the pain can be really severe. “Ovulation pain occasionally shows up in the Emergency Department because acute sudden pain can be very uncomfortable and mimic serious illness such as appendicitis,” Dr. Lisa Lewis, a pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas says.

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: If symptoms are extremely sharp for 12 hours or more, it’s worth visiting your doctor. Otherwise, our experts suggest that you get moving. Not only will it get your blood pumping and boost oxygen circulation from head to toe, but it can also help “build stronger pelvic muscles that might help combat ovulation pain,” Lewis says.

    Anti-inflammatories can also help, as can the natural remedies magnesium and boswellia, Wellenstein says.

    Light spotting
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    It’s not just an issue during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause. Spotting can also signal that you ovulating.

    "Blood and the surrounding fluid [released during ovulation] can be very irritating to the inside of the abdomen which, in turn, can cause pain," she says. Some people might experience more pain depending on the size of the developing follicles and the differing amounts of fluid/blood inside each.

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: If spotting lasts more than 24 hours or gets more severe month to month, see your doctor. And if this is a common problem, talk to your OB-GYN about your contraceptive routine.

    “If you experience disruptive pain associated with ovulation or nausea, vomiting, fever, chills or pain with urination, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider and talk about your symptoms and your contraceptive. The birth control pill can be helpful in preventing ovulation, thus preventing pain associated with this mid-cycle phenomenon,” Ross says.

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    Too much salt or fiber isn’t always the cause of a bloating. The fluid and blood that may accompany the release of the egg and irritate your stomach lining can also lead to a distended feeling.

    Additionally, estrogen peaks at ovulation, which causes water retention that can also contribute to bloating, Wellenstein says.

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: Warm things up. “One of the best ways to help ovulation pain is to relax the muscles of the pelvis. This means laying down with a heating pad, or taking a warm bath,” Lewis says.

    For extra relief, nosh on one of the foods proven to help combat bloat, and limit packaged and processed foods that have more sodium, Wellenstein suggests. "Movement and exercise can also help this discomfort," she says. "Bloating may worsen over the course of the luteal phase (after ovulation) as a function of rising progesterone. Progesterone impacts the motility of the intestinal tract, leading to constipation and bloating. Studies have shown that staying well hydrated and consuming ginger, peppermint, or dandelion tea, as well as pineapple may help."

    Breast tenderness
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    "Breast tenderness is hormonal and the result of rising progesterone levels," Wellenstein says. "This generally develops more during the luteal phase, the second half of the cycle after ovulation."

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: Vitamin E and vitamin B6 have been shown to reduce breast tenderness. Limiting caffeine and fat intake may help, too, Johns Hopkins researchers add.

    Wellenstein also suggests vitex, also known as chasteberry, a dried fruit that's native to the Mediterranean regions. Studies have shown that it can be effective in easing breast pain. She also suggests warm or cold compresses and a well-fitted, supportive bra. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen can also help.

    Whatever the ovulation pain, if you’re frustrated or feeling less than 100% longer than you prefer, don’t be afraid to ask for help, Ross says. “If you are confused and not sure why you’re in pain, either physically or emotionally, during any part of your menstrual cycle, contact your healthcare provider.”

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    Walgreens pharmacist Nancy Salman says she's seen various types of ovulation pain over the course of her career.

    “In my experience as a pharmacist, common ovulations symptoms are physical bloating, back pain and headaches," Salman says. "I’ve even seen some patients mention a heightened sense of smell."

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: For headaches, Salman suggests an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen, or an Air Compression Head Massager for those with more serious headaches. "[The massager] delivers gentle compression through multiple pockets that compress and contract. The user can choose between low and high intensity based on their needs," Salman explains.

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    Another common ovulation symptom is nausea.

    ✔️ How to ease the ovulation pain: If you aren't trying to get pregnant (nausea can also be a sign of pregnancy), there are a variety of over-the-counter nausea medicines that can help ease your symptoms. As Healthline.com suggests, you can also try other options like eating smaller, more frequent meals or chewing on ginger candies.

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