Wisconsin-based women’s healthcare pioneer Marla Ahlgrimm explains the symptoms, treatment, and prevention for mittelschmerz, or painful ovulation.

Some women experience severe to mild abdominal pain at the midpoint of their menstrual cycle, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Painful ovulation usually lasts for just a few minutes but can linger for hours. Often, according to Marla Ahlgrimm, pain is felt on one side of the abdominal wall and alternates monthly based on which ovary is active that month.

Who experiences painful ovulation?

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that painful ovulation does not discriminate based on age, race, or sexual activity. A woman who has never had intercourse is just as likely to experience uneasy ovulation.


Eggs, says Marla Ahlgrimm, develop in the ovaries and are surrounded by follicular fluid. Once a month, during ovulation, a single egg, along with this fluid and traces of blood, exits the ovary. Although there is some debate on the subject, many healthcare professionals believe that the lining of the abdominal cavity is irritated by this release, states Marla Ahlgrimm. One thing is clear, however, and that is that the pain subsides once these fluids have been absorbed into the body.

Is it ovulation pain?

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that ovulation-related pain occurs approximately 2 weeks after the start of a woman’s cycle. It is the timing that that often results in a diagnosis of mittelschmerz. Another key indicator is the location. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, ovulation pain is typically felt to one side on the lower abdomen.

Treatment and prevention

Marla Ahlgrimm explains that, unfortunately, painful ovulation has no specific treatment. Women may elect to take an over-the-counter NSAID pain medication to ease their discomfort. Additionally, Marla Ahlgrimm says that a heating pad wrapped in a towel and placed on the lower abdomen may help. The only way to avoid ovulation pain is to prevent the process altogether, says Marla Ahlgrimm. This is done through the use of birth control pills which, Marla Ahlgrimm cautions, may have side effects more severe than the condition that they were intended to relieve.

Side effects of birth control, notes Marla Ahlgrimm, include nausea, spotting, headaches, weight gain, sudden mood swings, decreased libido, and vaginal discharge. These should be taken into account prior to seeking treatment for other conditions, says Marla Ahlgrimm.

Most women never contact their doctors about their experience with ovulation pain, explains Marla Ahlgrimm, since it typically go away within 24 hours. However, if recurrent abdominal pain is accompanied by fever, painful urination, vomiting, or last for more than a day, a physician should be consulted to test for other potential medical concerns.