Mittelschmerz is one-sided, lower abdominal pain that affects some women. It occurs at or around the time of an egg is released from the ovaries (ovulation).
Ovulation pain; Midcycle pain
One in five women have pain around the time of ovulation. This is called mittelschmerz. The pain may occur just before, during, or after ovulation.
This pain can be explained in several ways. Just before the ovulation, the growth of the follicle where the egg develops may stretch the surface of the ovary. This can cause pain. At the time of ovulation, fluid or blood is released from the ruptured egg follicle. This may irritate lining of the abdomen.
Mittelschmerz may be felt on one side of the body during one month and then switch to the other side during the next month. It may also occur on the same side for many months in a row.
Symptoms include lower-abdominal pain that:
- Occurs only on one side.
- Goes on for minutes to a few hours. It can last up to 24 to 48 hours.
- Feels like a sharp, cramping pain unlike other pain.
- Severe (rare).
- May switch sides from month to month.
- Begins midway through the menstrual cycle.
Exams and Tests
A pelvic exam 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. These tests may be done if the pain is ongoing.
Most of the time, treatment is not needed. Pain relievers may be needed if the pain is intense or lasts a long time.
Mittelschmerz can be painful, but it is not harmful. It is not a sign of disease. It may help women to be aware of the time in the menstrual cycle when the egg is released. It is important for you to discuss any pain you are having with your health care provider. There are other conditions that can cause similar pain that are much more serious and require treatment.
Most of the time, there are no complications.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
- Ovulation pain seems to change.
- Pain lasts longer than usual.
- Pain occurs with vaginal bleeding.
Birth control pills can be taken to prevent ovulation. This can help reduce pain that is linked to ovulation.
Bope ET, Kellerman RD. Women's health. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2017. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 17.
Brown A. Obstetrics and gynaecology emergencies. In: Cameron P, Jelinek G, Kelly A-M, Brown A, Little M, eds. Textbook of Adult Emergency Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2015:626-655.
Giacomantonio M. Surgical assessment of the abdomen. In: Goldbloom RB, eds. Pediatric Clinical Skills. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 12.
Won HR, Abbott J. Optimal management of chronic cyclical pelvic pain: an evidence-based and pragmatic approach. Int J Women's Health. 2010;2:263-277. PMID: 21151732 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21151732.
Reviewed By: Anita Sit, MD, Department of OB/GYN, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, San Jose, CA (for identification purposes only). Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.