Ovulation pain: Symptoms and when to see a doctor

Ovulation occurs when a follicle in an ovary ruptures, releasing an egg. The egg eventually travels down the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

Most researchers think mittelschmertz pain is due to the swelling or rupturing of the follicle. The pain can last anything from a few hours to a few days.

A 2013 study of 55 women found that 35 percent felt pain in the middle of their cycle, with 16.6 percent of them experiencing pain on one side of the body.

Doctors do not know why some people experience ovulation pain, and some do not, but there is no evidence that it is a sign of a serious problem.

Symptoms of ovulation pain

Pelvic pain is common. A 2014 review of previous research found that between 5.7 and 26.6 percent of women worldwide have chronic pelvic pain.

It can be hard to tell the difference between ovulation pain and other types of pain, especially if people do not track their menstrual cycles or know when ovulation is happening.

Some symptoms of ovulation pain include:

  • sudden pain, not pain that gets worse over several days or hours
  • pain that appears in the middle of a cycle
  • pain on only one side of the body

The pain may be sharp or dull. It may feel like a stabbing sensation or cramp. Mittelschmerz is not typically severe enough to cause alarm. The pain usually occurs on its own; if it happens alongside other symptoms, however, it probably has another cause.

Signs that the pain might be due to something other than ovulation include:

  • pain on both sides of the body
  • pain that gets steadily worse
  • pain that lasts several days
  • pain with vaginal bleeding
  • pain following an injury
  • swelling or bloating
  • vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea
  • painful urination

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between stomach and pelvic pain.

Many stomach and intestinal problems can cause pain, including pain on one side of the body. Problems with the pancreas or liver often cause pain in the upper right stomach.

Other gastrointestinal problems, such as diverticulitis, an infection, or another serious problem with the intestines, can also cause stomach pain.

Many people also develop other symptoms alongside pain, such as:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • changes in the color of the stool

When to see a doctor

See a doctor for ovulation or pelvic pain if:

  • the pain is intense, interferes with daily functioning, or has gotten worse over time
  • the pain occurs at a time other than the middle of the cycle or lasts for several days
  • the pain occurs alongside heavy bleeding
  • there are other symptoms present, such as painful urination or fever

Go to the emergency room if:

  • the pain is unbearable
  • the pain occurs in a woman who is pregnant or who might be pregnant
  • the pain results from a blow to the stomach, sexual assault, or other potential injuries to the pelvic organs

Ovulation pain is usually mild and does not require treatment. Those who find the pain too intense can try one of the following home remedies:

  • Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, at the first sign of ovulation pain. Women who chart their cycles may be able to predict the day of ovulation and might consider taking an NSAID before the pain begins.
  • Stretching. Gentle stretches can help relieve muscle tension that may intensify the pain.
  • Applying a hot pack to the area for 20 minutes at a time.

These mild remedies are suitable for people who do not have any health issues or concerns. Anyone in any doubt that their pain is not due to mittelschmerz should talk to a doctor.


Ovulation pain is common and not a sign of any specific problem. Many people are not sure when they ovulate, making it easy to confuse mittelschmerz with other types of pain.

A visit to a doctor can help with diagnosing the cause, in addition to offering reassurance to those with concerns that ovulation pain might signal a serious problem.

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