Mittelschmerz is one-sided, lower abdominal pain that occurs in women at or around the time of an egg is released from the ovaries (ovulation).
Ovulation pain; Midcycle pain
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
About 1 in 5 women have mittelschmerz, or pain associated with ovulation. The pain may occur just before, during, or after ovulation.
There are several explanations for the cause of this pain. Just prior to ovulation, follicle growth may stretch the surface of the ovary, causing pain. At the time of ovulation, fluid or blood is released from the ruptured egg follicle and may cause irritation of the abdominal lining.
Mittelschmerz may be felt on one side one month, then switch to the opposite side the next month, or it may be felt on the same side for several months in succession.
Symptoms include lower-abdominal pain that is:
Typically lasting minutes to a few hours, possibly as long as 24-48 hours
Usually sharp, cramping, distinctive pain
May switch sides from month to month or from one episode to another
Begins midway through the menstrual cycle
Signs and tests
A pelvic examination shows no problems. Other tests (such as an abdominal ultrasound or transvaginal pelvic ultrasound) may be done to look for other causes of ovarian or pelvic pain, if the pain lasts a while.
No treatment is usually necessary. Pain relievers (analgesics) may be needed in cases of prolonged or intense pain.
Mittelschmerz can be painful, but it is not harmful. It is not a sign of disease. In fact, women who feel this pain may be at an advantage when planning or trying to avoid pregnancy. Mittelscmerz pain is felt around the time of ovulation. A woman is most likely to become pregnant just before ovulation, on the day of ovulation, or immediately after ovulation.
There are usually no complications.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if ovulation pain seems to change, lasts longer than usual, or occurs with vaginal bleeding.
Birth control pills can be taken to prevent ovulation and help reduce ovulation-related pain.
Won HR, Abbott J. Optimal management of chronic cyclical pelvic pain: an evidence-based and pragmatic approach. Int J Womens Health. 2010; 2: 263–277.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.