Ah, ovulation. Whether you're trying to increase your chances of getting pregnant — or vigilantly trying to avoid getting pregnant — this is a topic to care about. Ovulation is the process near the midpoint of your cycle in which your ovary releases a mature egg for fertilization (and whether or not that egg has a chance to get fertilized is up to you). Whether you're #TTC or not, many women like to know when their ovulation is occurring. So are there telltale signs that ovulation is occurring, or is feeling sick during ovulation just a coincidence? Just like your period, different women experience this phenomenon differently.
There are a few symptoms that may occur around the time of ovulation. “Common symptoms during ovulation are a change in cervical mucus, mild cramps or lower abdominal pain typically on either side of the lower abdomen, and bloating and breast tenderness,” says Dr. Prati Sharma in a message to Romper. “Usually women do not feel sick, but mild lower abdominal pain is quite typical. Changes in mood can also occur."
There are a couple different reasons why you might feel sick to your stomach around the time that you ovulate. Women experience changes in their hormone levels during this time. Specifically, according to American Pregnancy Association, we experience a surge in something called the luteinizing hormone, or LH, 12 to 36 hours prior to ovulation. If you've ever used a home ovulation kit, this is the hormone that it measures. This quick spike in the LH hormone can throw your digestive system out of whack, thus making some women feel nauseated, explains the fertility blog Conceive Success. (And throwing you for a loop as you wonder about pregnancy symptoms.)
For Rachel Rodriguez, 27, there is absolutely no mistaking when she's ovulating. "I can literally feel whether my egg is releasing from my left or right ovary each month about two weeks before my period. The pain is worse than my period cramps. It feels like something is being carved out, and Advil and exercise don't help. It usually lasts about 45 minutes," Rodriguez tells Romper.
There's a name for this pain that Rodriguez deals with monthly, and she's not the only one who experiences it. Some women experience constant discomfort, while others experience sharp, intermittent pain. "Some women feel a twinge or even a painful sensation at the time of ovulation. Medically, this is called mittelschmerz, or 'middle pain,' which is usually a one-sided, lower abdominal pain associated with ovulation," explains Dr. Alan Copperman, Medical Director at fertility treatment center Progyny, in a message to Romper.
Wonderful, because PMS and menstrual cramping obviously aren't fun enough on their own. There are two potential causes for mittelschmerz, according to The Mayo Clinic:
Hypothesis #1: Follicle growth right before ovulation actually stretches the surface of your ovary, which leads to some inevitable pain.
Hypothesis #2: There is blood and fluid released when the follicle ruptures and releases your egg, and one of these substances irritates the lining of your abdomen, creating this uncomfortable feeling.
If you're someone who experiences unpleasant physical changes during ovulation, there are two things to remember: it is temporary and normal. Of course, these facts won't make you feel any better in the moment, but there are a few things that might. “Applying warmth to the abdomen by using a heating pad on a low setting can help ovulation pain. Also, taking anti-inflammatory medication like Tylenol, Advil, or Naprosyn can help with abdominal cramps,” Dr. Sharma tells Romper. However, she cautions, “If a woman is trying to conceive, we do not recommend using a heating pad or medication as this can delay ovulation or interfere with conception and implantation.”
For women who struggle with particularly painful ovulation and aren't currently trying to conceive, birth control pills might be the best solution. These medications actually prevent ovulation completely, thus reducing the side effects that come along with it. Communicate with your doctor, and they'll advise if they recommend this as a form of treatment for you.
So yes, ovulation can indeed make some women feel sick. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that can point to a medical issue. Dr. Richard Honaker, a Texas-based family medicine doctor, tells Romper that women should contact their doctor if the pain is severe, lasts more than one day, is accompanied by bleeding, or comes after recent unprotected sex. Dr. Sharma also notes that severe pain should be addressed by a doctor, especially if it is excessive, requires time off from work, or it hinders you from performing daily activities. "If symptoms are accompanied by infertility (trying to conceive with no success for 6m-1year), an evaluation by a fertility specialist may be warranted. Anytime during the menstrual cycle that there is severe pain, more immediate evaluation should be considered as this could represent something more emergent," she says.
Whether you're hyper-aware when ovulation occurs or the entire process happens unbeknownst to you, one thing is a fact: women's bodies are freaking fascinating.
This post was originally published on July 18, 2018. It was updated on July 22, 2019.
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