I'll never forget the first time I ever saw the word "mittelschmerz," the name for the lower abdominal and pelvic pain associated with ovulation. Back then I didn't know what ovulation was, I just knew I wanted to feel that sensation because it meant I was finally getting my period. And now, as a mom who hasn't experienced her first postpartum cycle yet, I'm feeling that same sense of wonderment. Does ovulation feel different after you have a baby? And if so, what kind of feeling should I be preparing to experience?
Contraception isn't often a primary concern for new parents. According to the Department of Population Health, new moms are "partially protected" from an unwanted pregnancy by lactational amenorrhea (breastfeeding delaying a person's ovulation and/or period) or postnatal abstinence (not having sex because, you know, you just had a baby and having sex is probably the farthest thing from your mind). But tracking and learning more about how ovulation impacts your postpartum body is beneficial for multiple reasons including, but not limited to: knowing when you're most fertile, better understanding your menstrual cycle, and being able to monitor how your cycle changes as a response to stress. (You can even track ovulation if you have irregular periods.)
Some ways that people track ovulation include looking at changes in their cervical mucus or monitoring spotting and discharge. Our bodies also signal to us that ovulation is occurring with the help of (often uncomfortable) bodily sensations, like breast soreness, pelvic and abdominal pain, or changes in libido.
But what happens after giving birth? Do those feelings change in any way? Since it's possible to get pregnant before a new mom even starts her first postpartum period, as reported by What To Expect, it's good to know the details about ovulation after having a baby.
A 2011 study of postpartum women who don't lactate (i.e. moms who cannot and/or did not nurse), published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that most women can expect to get their period between 45 and 94 days postpartum. Once you do have your first postpartum period, three things are going to happen: your period will be the same as it was pre-pregnancy, it will get better, or it will get worse, according to Dr. Diane Young, M.D., OB-GYN, who spoke to the Cleveland Clinic in May of this year. Chances are, though, that your menstrual cycle will be what it was like before your pregnancy. Depending on which type of birth control method you use after giving birth, and whether or not you have a history of endometriosis or other chronic uterine disorders, that can change.
"Women comment that they are more or less able to feel when they ovulate as they get older (and often become more in tune with their bodies) but not specifically related to the postpartum period," Kristy Goodman MS, MPH, PA-C, tells Romper. The number one question Goodman receives that's related to postpartum ovulation is "how to know when they’ve begun to ovulate again, which can actually be difficult to determine when women are postpartum and/or breastfeeding."
One thing that plays a role is hormones. Your body's levels of progesterone, a hormone that plays a vital role in menstruation and early pregnancy, can impact how ovulation feels. After pregnancy, labor, and delivery, the levels can change which can result in changes in how ovulation feels. Some people even have less painful periods and fewer uncomfortable symptoms of ovulation. So, like many other things related to reproductive health, there are no definite answers as to how your body will change with it comes to pain and sensations related to ovulation.
A reported one in five women experience pain before, during, or after ovulation, according to the National Institutes of Health. They also note that the pain could stem from different sources: either the stretching surface of your ovary or releasing fluid and blood from the ruptured egg follicle. Either way, the pain, and other feelings and sensations, associated with ovulation can cause extreme discomfort.
Even though postpartum ovulation pains aren't guaranteed, it's helpful to know what to expect when you're expecting your first postpartum period. Be sure to check with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns, because your body is unique and your unique responses to ovulation can reveal so much about your health.