Mittelschmerz is the pelvic pain that some women experience during ovulation. Ovulation generally occurs midway between a woman’s menstrual cycles, hence the term "mittelschmerz", which is derived from the German words "middle" and "pain."
Mittelschmerz occurs during ovulation when an egg is released by the ovaries. For some women, this causes severe cramps and pain around the lower abdomen. Although this pain may feel like something is seriously wrong, mittelschmerz is rarely serious, said About.com.
According to WebMD, the pain at ovulation can range from a mild twinge to severe discomfort. It is generally felt on one side of the abdomen. This may vary each month depending on which ovary is releasing the egg during that cycle.
In some cases, small amounts of vaginal bleeding or discharge may occur. If the pain is severe, some women may experience nausea.
Mittelschmerz lasts for six to eight hours in most women. However, occasionally it can last as long as 24 to 48 hours. It is estimated that one in five women experience pain at ovulation. Many women never experience pain at ovulation. Some women, however, have pain at ovulation every month and actually can determine by the pain that they are ovulating.
This may be an advantage for women who feel pain at ovulation when planning or trying to avoid pregnancy.
There are several explanations for the cause of mittelschmerz.
MedlinePlus wrote that just prior to ovulation, follicle growth may stretch the surface of the ovary, causing pain. Another possibility is that at the time of ovulation, blood or fluid is released from the ruptured egg follicle and may cause the abdominal lining to become irritated.
As previously stated, the pain usually goes away within about 24 hours, so specific treatment is not required. Over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen and naproxen generally are effective in relieving mittelschmerz. Applying a heating pad to the lower abdomen or taking a warm bath may also help ease discomfort.
If you experience mittelschmerz nearly every month and it causes quite a bit of discomfort, talk to your doctor about the option of taking birth control pills. Birth control pills prevent ovulation, which prevents mittelschmerz, because the condition can only occur when an egg is released by the ovaries.
"Cleveland Clinic." Cleveland Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.
Cornforth, Tracee. "Mittelschmerz - The Pain Between Periods." Women's Health Issues - Women's Health Questions and Answers - Women's Sexual Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.
"Mittelschmerz - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.
"Mittelschmerz: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.
"Sexual Health: Painful Ovulation (Mittelschmerz)." Women's Health Center: Information on Women's Wellness, Nutrition, Fitness, Intimate Questions, and Weight Loss. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 July 2013.
Reviewed August 1, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith