Did you know that about 20% women suffer from cramping during ovulation in every cycle or intermittent ones. This is also known as 'mittelschmerz', the German term for middle pain. Ovulation is the phase of menstrual cycle that involves the release of the ovum (egg cell) from the matured ovarian follicle into the fallopian tube. Ovulation is a very important step in the process of reproduction. Many women experience mild cramping during ovulation that can actually disrupt their day-to-day activities.
Generally, the menstrual cycle is of 28 days or more and ovulation occurs after two weeks from the first day of the last period. The intensity of pain varies in women. While some experience mild twinges, others experience intense pain which is often mistaken for appendicitis. Here we shall take a look at some obvious tell-tale signs that indicate ovulation cramping.
It is easy to recognize ovulation cramping as it is sharp and distinct. It feels just like menstrual cramping, only that the pain is slightly less intense. This cramping is also sometimes described as abdominal pain, as it occurs in the lower abdomen on either side of the pelvis.
Ovulation generally occurs in the middle of two successive menstrual cycles. It is around two weeks from the first day of your last period or two weeks before the next one. The pain can be very discomforting.
There is no fixed pattern of the pain during ovulation. The pain comes suddenly without any warning and can last anywhere between an hour to 48 hours after the actual beginning of the ovulation process. Also, for some women, it may occur every month.
Though only one of the two ovaries produces an ovum, the cramping during ovulation may switch sides and cause pain in either left or right part of the lower abdomen. If observed closely, one can also deduce which of the ovary produced the ovum in that given month.
Women may experience a strong sexual desire during their fertile period. This usually happens a few days before ovulation. It may also lead to mild nausea, headaches, mood swings and light bleeding. Some women may also experience tender cervix and breasts during ovulation as the body prepares for pregnancy. Also, on the onset of ovulation, there is a discharge that ranges from watery to egg white-like cervical mucus. The body basal temperature increases because of the variation in the progesterone levels during and after ovulation.
Due to the hormonal impact, the ovaries produce around 20 follicles. Each of these 20 follicles bears an immature ovum. Amongst all these unfertilized ova, only one lasts till the actual process of fertilization. Supposedly, the expanding follicle stretches the membrane covering the ovary that causes cramping during ovulation.
The egg which develops in the ovary has follicular fluid around it. At the time of ovulation, the egg, follicular fluid as well as some blood is discharged by the ovary. This sudden flow of fluid or blood may nettle the lining of the abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Hence, there can be mild cramping during the time of ovulation. Once the body completely absorbs the fluid or blood, the pain subsides.
Though only one or two eggs mature, a number of eggs grow within the ovaries during the follicular phase. This causes follicular swelling which leads to cramping.
Smooth Muscle Cell Contraction
During ovulation the smooth muscle cell contracts as a reaction to the increased level of prostaglandin F2 alpha which is also affected by the surge of luteinizing hormone (LH).
The ovaries do not have any specific openings. Hence during ovulation, the eggs in the process of getting released, rupture the wall of the ovary and cause pain. Also, a contraction takes place in the fallopian tubes after ovulation which leads to cramping.
Treatment and Prevention
There is no specific treatment for mittelschmerz as it subsides some time after ovulation. However, to seek some relief from pain some measures can be undertaken. Following remedies can help relieve the cramping pain:
- Using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs as they are good pain relievers.
- Placing a hot water bag on the part that is paining will certainly ease the pain.
- Taking warm water baths also helps in increasing the blood flow and relaxing the muscles.
- Staying hydrated by drinking at least 7 to 8 glasses of water during ovulation.
- Taking ample rest is the best way to deal with pain.
- Taking birth control pills to stop ovulation and prevent the pain in case of severe mittelschmerz. However, it is important to consult your doctor before you start the pills.
A medical practitioner will diagnose the pain as mittelschmerz by studying the dates of your menstrual cycle and occurrence of pain. In case of severe cramping, your doctor may conduct an abdominal or transvaginal pelvic ultrasound to rule out other serious problems. He may even conduct blood tests, x-ray examinations, etc., in case he finds any irregularities.
It is best not to ignore any symptoms that might be something more than just the cramping. In case of experiencing the following symptoms along with cramping, It is best to seek immediate medical attention.
- Pain while urinating
- Redness and inflammation of the area which is paining
- Blood in stool and vomit
- Excessive bleeding
- Dizziness or fainting
- Mid-cycle pain lasting longer than two days
- Missed last period
If you suffer from cramping during ovulation, there is no need to panic. It is fairly common and the pain recedes on its own. Most women don't even realize they are ovulating. If you are experiencing cramps then just relax for a while and if the pain is severe, then take a painkiller only after consulting a doctor. The cramping also gives you an idea of the actual time of the ovulation and can be useful for women who are planning to get pregnant.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.