Mittelschmerz (Ovulation Pain) Is No Freaking Joke

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
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It’s that time of the month for me, and I’m cranky AF. Nope, I’m not PMSing. I’m ovulating. And it sucks balls (or should I say, ovaries).

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had very, ummm, pronounced symptoms during ovulation. Ovulation makes me hyper-alert, full of energy, and horny. But it also makes me angsty, edgy, and anxious. One moment, I want to jump my husband and have all the babies — the next, I want to stab everyone’s eyes out.

That’s only the emotional part though. The physical part is just as extreme for me (warning: graphic depiction of women’s fertility coming up). During ovulation, I’m basically a drippy (yes, from there), nauseous, hangry, stomach-achy mess. I am prone to migraines then (the kind that make me feel like I’m going to hurl) as well as flare-ups of my IBS. So fun, right?

I was never one of those gals who wasn’t sure when she was ovulating. My body has always made it loud and clear.

But perhaps the most awful and debilitating symptom I experience is a little thing called mittelschmerz, which is the German word that refers to ovulation pain (it literally means “middle pain” and is basically the perfect curse word to yell out when you are in the throes of ovulation pain).

The pain isn’t totally unbearable every month (and it’s subsided as I’ve gotten older — yay!), but sometimes it’s so bad that it requires me to get into bed with a heating pad on my abdomen, curl up in a little ball, and weep. Over-the-counter pain relievers help, but it’s also the unrelenting pressure and bloating (more on that later) accompanying the pain that makes me weepy.

Mittelschmerz is a concentrated pain on the side of your lower abdomen, where your ovaries are located. According to Mayo Clinic, the pain comes from the ovaries and fallopian tubes stretching in anticipation of the release of the egg. Blood and fluid that is released during ovulation may also irritate the lining of your abdomen causing pain.

The pain is usually felt on one side, alternating sides from month to month. But this varies greatly from woman to woman. Some women experience pain on one side each month for a few months; some experience pain on both sides at times (maybe because they are ovulating from both ovaries?!). Some women experience a little bleeding at the time of ovulation too. Thankfully, mittelschmerz usually only lasts a few hours, but it can last up to a day or two for some women.

All of this is normal and usually doesn’t require a trip to the doctor, but if your pain is extreme or if you are experiencing other symptoms, you should absolutely see your doctor for a checkup, as these symptoms could also be signs of endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or something more serious, according to WebMD. (For real, ladies: Never neglect worrisome health symptoms. You never know when something more serious is going on.)

For me, part of what makes ovulation pain so crippling sometimes is the bloating and other digestive symptoms I experience on top of the ovulation pain. I basically feel like all of my organs are being pushed to their maximum capacity, it hurts like a mofo, and I find it hard to move without feeling like I’m going to explode.

Fun times, I tell you.

What strikes me about something like mittelschmerz, and actually many of the symptoms of ovulation, is just how little we women talk about it. I’m a bit of a women’s health junkie (yes, there’s such a thing), so I’ve always been interested in things like this and have been researching the signs of symptoms of ovulation for years, especially because they were always so pronounced for me.

When I took an informal pool in preparation for writing this article, I was struck by just how many female friends of mine experienced mittelschmerz and other ovulation symptoms that knocked them off their feet each month. Many hadn’t really ever talked about it, and said to me, “Wow, I thought I was the only one!”

While mittelschmerz is typically not the most difficult female reproductive symptom women experience (though it can be quite debilitating for some), it’s definitely something that can be disruptive to our lives, but something that many of us feel too shy, uncomfortable, or ashamed to discuss.

I say we all start coming out of our shells, talking about the weird and amazing things our bodies are capable of doing, and start coming together more frequently to commiserate and support one another. Being a woman can be a tough business sometimes, but we all rise to the occasion like the rockstars we are! We need to have each other’s backs throughout it all, and sharing our diverse experiences with the stuff our bodies go through is beneficial for everyone involved.

So let’s talk about this stuff more. Let’s make more efforts to educate, support, destigmatize, and celebrate the beautiful, powerful, badass women we are.

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