What Causes Ovulation Pain?
Ovulation pain is a type of ovarian pain which occurs in about 1 woman in 5 in their reproductive years. Typically, pain during ovulation happens about two weeks before the menstrual cycle, when one of the ovaries releases an ovum or egg. Intensity of pain during ovulation varies from woman to another. Some women feel mild discomfort, while others experience severe pain and cramping. Ovulation pain can last for a few minutes or a few days. Another name for ovary pain during ovulation is Mittelschmerz, which is German for "mid pain."
Ovulation pain can be a symptom of a serious underlying gynecological disorder, but this is generally not the case. Nevertheless, severe, prolonged ovary pain during ovulation (more than 2-3 days) or heavy bleeding are symptoms that merit a call to your doctor.
What causes ovulation pain? The exact reason is uncertain, but researchers have come up with some possibilities.
The most likely theories focus on ovarian follicles, the sac-like structures in which eggs develop. One possible explanation suggests that during ovulation, the follicle bursts open, releasing the egg into the fallopian tube. It could be that the expanding follicle stretches the membrane of the ovaries, which causes pain and discomfort.
Another possibility is that when the egg matures, it bursts from the follicle, resulting in internal bleeding. This bleeding may irritate the lining of the uterus.
As previously mentioned, ovulation pain is quite common and in most cases it's not an indication of any underlying disorder. But sometimes it can be a sign of a problem that's developing. These possibilities include the following.
Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease - Another name for pelvic inflammatory disease is PID. PID is the result of inflammation in a woman's reproductive system. PID is often a serious complication of diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Ectopic pregnancy - This happens when a fertilized eggs starts developing in a fallopian tube or somewhere else outside the uterus. Typical symptoms include abdominal cramping and vaginal bleeding. It is a dangerous situation and requires professional medical attention.
Endometriosis - Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, grows elsewhere outside the uterus. Typical symptoms of endometriosis include pain during intimacy and menstrual discomfort.
Ovarian cysts - This is an abnormal pocket of fluid that develops in the ovary. Most of the time, an ovarian cyst is harmless, but this is not universally true.
Salpingitis - This condition is usually caused by an infection that triggers inflammation in the fallopian tubes. Tubal inflammation accounts for about 1 in every 6 hospital admissions related to female reproductive problems.
What about ovulation pain after ovulation? There could be a minor leakage of blood from an ovary sometimes during ovulation. It's common for this leakage to result in irritation. There are a number of variables that determine how much pain this will cause, and how serious a situation it presents.
Other issues related to the reproductive system, such as fibroids or PCOS, can also cause pain after ovulation. Ask your doctor about these.
Some diseases that are not related to a woman's reproductive system can also cause symptoms that resemble pain during ovulation. Generally, these are gastrointestinal problems. Also, early stage appendicitis presents symptoms that are much like ovulation pain. Get medical attention right away if the pain grows progressively worse on the right side of your abdomen and nausea and vomiting begin.
Finally, keep in mind once more, ovulation pain is generally not dangerous and typically goes away without treatment, even though it can be quite uncomfortable and even distressing while it's happening. It is important to know when mid-cycle pain is a sign of something more serious. It's no different with ovulation pain than it is with other medical problems. It's better to get checked out than assume everything is okay, only to find out later that something is seriously wrong.
Neal Kennedy is a retired TV anchor, medical reporter and radio talk show host.
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