Do you have some mild cramping about two weeks before your period? You may be wondering if those pains are from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). According to Melodee Babcock, CNM, a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford Health, your discomfort could be caused by ovulation pain.
“As many as 25% to 40% of women experience ovulation pain midway through their menstrual cycle. However, because women can have cycles that vary each month, they may be uncertain about the cause of their discomfort,” she says.
Here, Babcock explains ovulation pain and answers many of the questions she receives from patients about symptoms and treatments.
Is Pain During Ovulation Normal?
If you are menstruating, one of your ovaries releases an egg each month as part of your menstrual cycle. This process is called ovulation and occurs approximately 14 to 16 days after your last period began. Ovulation pain is discomfort caused by the ovulation process. It is also called mittelschmerz, German for “middle pain.”
“It’s normal to experience ovulation pain. Your discomfort could be caused by fluid buildup in your ovarian follicle before or once it ruptures to release an egg,” says Babcock. “And if you have ovulation pain, you are not at increased risk for other conditions, such as ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer.”
Symptoms of ovulation pain can last for a few minutes or as long as a day. Signs of ovulation pain include:
- Abdominal pain or cramping on one side
- Bleeding or spotting
How Is Ovulation Pain Treated?
Babcock recommends treating ovulation pain by:
- Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Placing a warm pack on your abdominal area
- Sitting in a warm bath
“Remember to give these methods time to relieve your discomfort. Most women feel better after using these treatment options for one to two days,” she says.
How Can I Tell If My Pain Is From Ovulation Or Something Else?
The best way to identify whether your discomfort is due to ovulation pain or PMS is to track your menstrual cycle over time. “If you’re having mild pain in the middle of your cycle, it is most likely being caused by ovulation,” says Babcock.
But what if the length of your menstrual cycle varies each month? “It’s normal to have cycles that last between 21 and 32 days,” adds Babcock. “To get the best picture of your menstrual health, record your symptoms throughout the month and share this information with your gynecologist or midwife.”
- When your period begins and how long it lasts
- How much and when you bleed or spot throughout the month
- Any pain before, during or after your period
- Other symptoms you experience, such as headaches, breast tenderness or fatigue
“This information can help your provider pinpoint the source of your discomfort. It may also help determine whether you need further medical evaluation for other conditions,” says Babcock.
When Should You Seek Immediate Medical Care?
Babcock recommends seeing a doctor immediately if you have discomfort in the middle of your menstrual cycle that includes:
- Heavy bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sudden, sharp abdominal pain
- Severe cramps that last more than 24 hours
“Your symptoms could be signs of a serious condition, such as appendicitis, endometriosis or an ectopic pregnancy,” she says. “It always best to seek help rather than hope severe symptoms will go away on their own.”
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Melodee Babcock, CNM, is a certified nurse midwife, seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Livonia and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.