When I decided to try to conceive my first baby, I wanted to do everything I could to improve my odds. At the advice of my nurse practitioner, I stopped taking birth control and started "tracking my cycle," which involved figuring out when I was ovulating. The problem? I'd been on some form of hormonal birth control for over a decade. I worried I wouldn't know when I was actually ovulating. Thankfully, I learned what it actually feels like to ovulate, so not knowing was never, ever, a problem.
No one really talks about it, but ovulation hurts, you guys. For me, it hurts a lot. It starts like a dull ache — like I have done 100 bicycle crunches on just one side — and ends with a sharp pain, like someone has stabbed me in my lower abs on one side. The silver lining, though? There was no mistaking when it was happening, which made timing conception sex easier than I thought it would be. And it turns out that ovulation makes me super horny, too. Score.
I asked around and learned that ovulation affects different people in different ways. Some people with ovaries have no idea they're ovulating, some feel serious pain, and some feel like sex deities. I had no idea. I think this might be yet another aspect of reproductive health that women and other people with ovaries just don't talk about. Unfortunately, and just like menstrual pain and childbirth, it's seen as taboo.
Also since there's such a large spectrum of discomfort during ovulation — from no pain at all to "would someone please rip out my ovary to make it stop" — you sort of feel like it might just be you, or that no one will believe you if you tell them, or worse, will minimize your pain. Well, friends, I believe you. Whether you feel like dying when you ovulate, or feel nothing at all, you totally aren't alone. So with that in mind, read on for some real talk about what ovulation is actually like. You might just be surprised.
"Loads of clear discharge, irritability, cramping, hungriness, and off the chain horniness. To me it feels the same as early pregnancy felt like for me."
"I feel a generalized ache, or a kind of stinging sensation on either side, depending on which one is up to something."
"Like aliens are hatching out of my ovaries with knives."
"I have endometriosis so my ovulation is more painful than my period. Every month I know it’s coming because I get extreme back pain on my right side (only one ovary works). Then I can feel my ovary every time I cough or laugh or sneeze. A sharp pain exactly where it’s at. It lasts for two days and it also hurts in my cervix."
"I often feel nauseous when I ovulate. It took me several months of tracking to find the correlation."
"Feels like someone is digging their finger into my abdomen to attempt to touch my ovary. Sharp, location-specific pain. Usually happens for a minute or two, and then it’s gone."
"I used to puke and be doubled over in pain for two days straight. My pain was always dismissed as drama. Turns out I have stage four endometriosis and just underwent an emergency hysterectomy. Period pain isn't taken seriously in our society."
"I never felt it."
"It feels like a slight twinge, then a skin-crawling sensation. My throat tightens and my eyes get watery. My mood is very depressed for the rest of the day, sometimes two. It makes me think about my body in a way that hurts. I’m fine with my bottom parts, most of the time, but when this happens I want them gone. Luckily I have an IUD now that stops me from ovulating, except once every eight months or so.
"The day I ovulate, I am usually constipated, so I am bloated. When I ovulate on the left, mild cramping. On the right, I feel like a tiny little gremlin has my ovary in a vise. He is tightening it down with a sledge hammer and laughing."
"Horny as a raging beast. Truth is, I almost never ovulate (I have PCOS). So, when I had a libido and discharge for once and a slight ache in my side back in August, I jumped on my husband, and got our only pregnancy without help."
"I'll get what feels like minor menstrual cramps for a day or two, followed by an internal pinch. The pinch used to alternate sides every month. I had an ovary removed when I had my son, so now I only feel it on the left side. Then I'll get a thick, clear ovulation mucus that is as thick as the clots you pass during a period."
"I've never once noticed a change with ovulation except with discharge, but I feel no different whatsoever."
"Several days of shooting pain in the ovary region that makes me gasp at times. And I have a high pain tolerance."
"Stabbing, sometimes excruciating pain for at least one day, though it's been more like two lately. I can definitely tell which ovary is popping out a follicle based on which side the pain is on."
"The only time I want to have sex, honestly. It sucks. No pain."
"I never feel anything. Thank goodness for ovulation testing sticks. I was ovulating way later than normal and may never have known sans symptoms."
"Interestingly, I have no interest in sex while I ovulate. It's not until my period that I get horny, happy, and energetic. I know I'm the opposite from most other women. I joke with my husband that it's our birth control. But, during the week of ovulation, I get extra tired, extremely cranky, no desire to be touched, and a bit nauseous. Occasionally some cramps that feel like bad gas pains, definitely lots of extra egg white discharge."
"Absolutely nothing. Ever."
"I feel very confident and sexy, like my body is at its absolute best. My boobs look great, my skin is clear, I'm not bloated, and my mood is pure joy. My great grandma always called it 'the mating look.' She always knew when the women in our family were ovulating/fertile just by looking at us. She was also a total baby predictor."
"I've always felt the cramping twinge when I ovulated, even back in high school. I had Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) back then, so at probably played a role. It was very easy to pinpoint because it was a very specific pain and very localized. As an adult it was fantastic when I was trying to get pregnant, my cycle was pretty regular and the pain reminded me to get on it.
However, I'm 38 now and closing in on menopause. The ovulation pain is worse than before. Where it used to be a small pinpointed cramp, is now an incredibly painful severe cramp. It's larger and more pronounced as it also causes some bloating. The older I get the more I get PMS like symptoms the day before I ovulate. After discussing with my OB-GYN, she feels like mittelschmerz — the German word for ovulation pain — is probably more common than we know, however many women just don't investigate it, since we've been conditioned to not discuss 'woman' issues. I hope that continues to change, and our health becomes forefront."
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