You might be accustomed to period cramps when it’s that time of the month; however, menstruators can also experience mid-cycle pain, called mittelschmerz. The word, which is German for “middle pain,” refers to pain associated with ovulation. It usually occurs around 14 days before your menstrual cycle, and is felt on one side in the lower abdomen.
Why does it happen?
Long story short, doctors aren’t sure what causes the pain. Mittelschmerz occurs at the time when a “follicle ruptures and releases its egg” during ovulation, the Mayo Clinic explains.
It can be painful because the follicle growth stretches the ovary’s surface, or because the lining of the abdomen is irritated by the release of fluid from the ruptured follicle.
“Some months you may have a lot of cystic fluid while other times it might be minimal, which can help explain why you might have mittelschmerz one month and not the next,” women's health expert and author Sherry A. Ross, M.D., told SELF.
Just like period cramps, mittelschmerz can range from mild discomfort to extremely agonizing. It can be short-lived (lasting a couple minutes) or lengthy (up to a couple days.) The symptoms can be similar to period cramps as well, including dull and achy pain in the lower abdomen (one-sided), sharp and sudden pain, nausea, slight vaginal bleeding and discharge. If symptoms worsen, like worsening pelvic pain or severe vaginal bleeding, it’s time to seek medical care immediately.
What you can do to help
"Knowing your cycle well is very helpful — particularly as to medicating against these symptoms," OB-GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln Dr. Kecia Gaither told Woman's Day.
Tracking your cycle can give you a heads up on when to expect pain associated with ovulation. You can plan to work from home that day or have an exit strategy if you’re needed in-person. An over-the-counter pain medicine can provide some relief. Hot or cold packs can also help.