Ovulation Cramps: What Causes Them & What They Mean
From a dull ache to a deep and intense throb, cramps are an unfortunately familiar experience for anyone who gets their period.They usually signal the start of your period, but what does it mean when they happen in the middle of your cycle?
Don’t panic, approximately 20% of women experience something called ovulation cramps. Commonly called mittelschmerz from the German words for middle and pain, ovulation cramps are thought to occur when the egg is released from the follicle. Although they differ from menstrual cramps in a few key ways, cramping during ovulation is perfectly normal.
In this post we’ll look at what ovulation cramps are, what causes them, what they mean, and we’ll explore the answers to some commonly asked questions about ovulation cramps.
Does ovulation cause cramps?
Ovulation is the stage of the menstrual cycle where an egg is released from one of the ovaries. The process itself is not inherently painful and not everyone who experiences ovulation will experience ovulation cramping. However, for some women, ovulation can be painful and even cause cramping.
Cramping during ovulation may feel like an ache, a sharp twinge or pull, pain on one side of the abdomen, and can even be accompanied by bleeding or spotting. In most cases the pain is minor to moderate and doesn’t last longer than a couple of days.
What causes ovulation cramps
The exact cause of ovulation cramps is unknown but there are several theories as to why it might occur. As the follicle grows to accommodate a maturing egg, it may stretch the surface of the ovary and cause pain or a pulling feeling. The follicle swells and ruptures to release an egg and the fluid released, together with the egg, may be a source of cramping during ovulation as they can irritate the inner lining of the abdomen and pelvis.
In addition, the follicle contains more than just a maturing egg and as the egg is released, blood and other fluids come with it. Fluid and blood released on the lining of the abdomen and pelvis may cause irritation. Until that fluid is reabsorbed it can cause inflammation and irritation that is felt as cramping. Ultimately the pain is due to how the process of ovulation occurs and it’s understandable to experience some discomfort with the swelling, rupturing, and increased fluid during ovulation.
What are the symptoms of ovulation cramps
Ovulation cramps differ from menstrual cramps in a few key ways. Aside from how the pain feels, menstrual cramps happen just before or during your period whereas ovulation cramps during ovulation.
Pain or cramping on one side of the abdomen
For some people, the ovaries take turns releasing an egg so that each ovary only releases an egg every other month. In this case, you will likely feel the pain on the side where the ovary is releasing an egg and the pain can switch from one cycle to the next depending on which ovary is ovulating.
Pain that starts midway through your cycle
Assuming there is no variation in your cycle length, ovulation usually occurs two weeks before the start of your period and any pain usually occurs on the day of ovulation or the day after. Of course, if you are tracking your cycle you can start to predict it and you may notice patterns or symptoms of ovulation and your pain.
Dull, uncomfortable, or sharp pain
Pain is a uniquely personal experience and each woman will experience it differently. Some women experience an overall dull and uncomfortable sensation in the abdomen while others experience a sharp pain, twinge, or pull. Ovulation pain is commonly described as uneasy pressure or sharp cramps but should never be severe. Severe pain should never be ignored and it’s important to consult with your doctor if you feel your pain is stronger than normal.
How to prevent and treat cramping during ovulation
It may be impossible to prevent ovulation cramps as they are a natural byproduct of ovulation and how the process occurs. While it may be perfectly natural to experience ovulation cramps, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. Most ovulation pain can be treated by over-the-counter medications or home remedies and without medical intervention .
Common treatment options for ovulation cramps:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, or other NSAIDS to relieve general pain and swelling.
- Heating pads.
- Hot bath.
- Relaxation and stress management.
Other ovulation symptoms
Individual symptoms can vary, but there are noticeable signs and symptoms that occur around ovulation including the following:
- Changes in the texture and consistency of cervical mucus.
- A rise in your basal body temperature.
- Increased libido due to rising estrogen levels.
- Breast pain or tenderness due to hormonal fluctuations.
- Changes in cervical positioning.
Other possible causes for abdominal cramps
Abdominal cramps aren’t always caused by ovulation or menstruation and there may be other reasons for your pelvic pain. Possible causes for experiencing pain in your pelvis include pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections, STIs, an ectopic pregnancy, or even ovarian cysts.
Certain conditions may also cause midcycle pain including endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Any health issue that is likely to cause irritation, swelling may be the cause of your abdominal cramps rather than ovulation pain.
When to see a doctor for ovulation pain
Most of the time ovulation pain isn’t something to worry about but you should always trust your gut. Sometimes ovulation pain can be a sign of an underlying medical condition so if your pain seems unusual or more severe than “ordinary” pain you should seek treatment. If your pain is accompanied by heavy bleeding, fever, or nausea it can be an indication that something more serious is going on and you will need to see your doctor for next steps.
Ovulation cramps FAQ
We’ve got the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about ovulation cramps.
How long do ovulation cramps last?
How long ovulation cramps last varies from person to person and most people report that their cramps last between 6 and 12 hours, though some report them lasting as little as a few minutes.
How to tell the difference between ovulation cramps and implantation?
It can be difficult to tell the difference between types of cramps and the only definitive is with a positive pregnancy test. However, in comparison, implantation cramps are usually shorter and not as intense as ovulation cramps and may be completely unnoticeable for some women.
If you are questioning your cramps, it’s best to get confirmation with a pregnancy test. But since implantation can happen 6 to 12 days after the egg is fertilized, you’ll want to make sure you are testing at the appropriate time for the most accurate results. Of course if you are tracking with a device like Mira, you can also watch your unique hormone levels change with that for an accurate prediction.
Can I still get pregnant after I have ovulation cramps?
Ovulation cramps have no direct connection to your chances of getting pregnant. Ovulation cramps are a good indication that you have ovulated and although ovulation is necessary for pregnancy, the cramps you may or may not experience have no bearing on your chances of getting pregnant.