Anyone who’s ever had a period knows: Pain is just part of the process. But period pain doesn’t just drop by during your period. For some women, it shows up before an egg even hits the fallopian tubes. As if blinding headaches, crippling cramps, and sore breasts weren’t punishing enough on their own, ovulation pain makes a mid-cycle appearance to bring a world of hurt to your most sensitive parts.
But why does ovulation hurt? We asked nationally renowned women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider to break down the science behind ovulation pain — and tell us how to manage it.
And according to our period tracker, Dr. Wider’s pointers couldn’t come any sooner. Because at most, your period is only ever 28 days away. Between period flu (yes, this is a thing) and cramps so horrible they force you to take a day off work, periods — and their partners in pain — require some serious planning around.
But first things first: What is ovulation?
Ovulation occurs when the body releases a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone triggers the release of an egg from a follicle on the ovary. As the egg is pushed out, the follicle ruptures.
If this sounds like something out of Alien, just remember: THIS IS PROBABLY HAPPENING IN YOUR BODY RN!
When the egg enters the fallopian tube, the tube contracts, and the blood and fluid from the ruptured follicle flows into the abdomen and could cause irritation, which some women experience as pain.
So, what does normal ovulation pain feel like?
“Pain tends to be subjective, so women will describe it differently,” said Dr. Wider in an email. “[But] most women describe ovulation pain as a sharp twinge that lasts for a short period of time on one side of the lower abdomen, others experience it as a dull ache or crampy [feeling].”
Okay, that’s not as bad as we thought. Consider ovulation pain handled.
And abnormal ovulation pain?
Like normal ovulation pain, it varies from person to person. But according to Dr. Wider, any pain that is severe and persistent needs to be checked out by a medical professional. Especially if the pain gets in the way of your daily functioning or requires pain killers.
“[Severe ovulation pain] could be the sign of something that needs medical attention,” said Dr. Wider. “For example, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, a sexually transmitted infection, bacterial infection, adhesions from a surgery.” So, see your doctor. STAT.
For everyone else, if there are no other underlying causes of your pain, Dr. Wider recommends sufferers treat it with heating pads and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen.
Your period may be a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. Here’s to happier ovulating!