Two days ago, while in my weekly Obs/Gyn Clinic, I met a young lady that was concerned about her health. She is in her mid 20’s, and she was worried about abdominal cramping after ovulation.
She has a boyfriend and was actively involved in sexual intercourse. Like every other lady, she was worried that abdominal cramps after her ovulation might mean something serious.
If you are experiencing cramps after ovulation, there is no reason to panic.
Are you trying to conceive? If you are, the truth is, cramping after ovulation is an early sign of pregnancy.
However, it is crucial you perfectly understand the timing of ovulation. This is because there are other causes of abdominal cramps that are not due to ovulation.
This article explains how to identify ovulation, the reason why cramps after ovulation occur, and possibly other reasons why you have pain in your abdomen after ovulation.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the monthly discharge of an egg from either the right or the left ovaries.
This means, at a specified time in your menstrual cycle, your body signals your ovaries to release an egg into the fallopian tubes that will eventually fuse with a sperm to form an embryo.
The process of ovulation is controlled by numerous hormones mainly follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone.
The FSH works mainly by stimulating the growth of small follicles in the ovaries. These follicles, about twenty in number, continue to grow with the production of estrogen.
Towards the time of ovulation, just one follicle becomes dominant and mature. This follicle is called the Graafian follicle and is released at the time of ovulation.
After ovulation occurs, there is a corresponding change in the level of hormones in your body. The ruptured follicle forms what is called the corpus luteum, which mainly works to produces progesterone and small amounts of estrogen.
This means before ovulation occurs, estrogen is dominant, while after ovulation, there is a rise in the level of progesterone hormone.
How to correctly understand when ovulation occurs
The hormonal changes that happen before or after ovulation are the primary reasons you have abdominal cramps. But, as mentioned earlier on, it is important we identify when ovulation occurs to be sure abdominal pain is due to ovulation.
Here are symptoms you will experience just before ovulation happens
Wet, watery, stretchy vaginal discharge
Now, this is one of the easiest ways to tell that you are about to ovulate. And, for a fact, it is as simple as dipping your fingers into your vaginal canal.
If your vagina discharge looks and feel watery, and you can actually stretch it between your fingers, that’s a sign that you are in your ovulation period.
Light vaginal spotting
Another way to tell you are in your ovulation period is light vaginal spotting in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
The middle of your menstrual cycle is usually about a week after the end of your menstrual period. So, if at this time, you notice mild vaginal bleeding, it’s likely you are already on your ovulation period.
However, you need to be cautious still as there are other causes of vaginal spotting. Midcycle vaginal spotting due to ovulation is light and lasts for a few days.
Other signs of ovulation are an increased urge to have intercourse, bilateral breast pain, increased basal temperature, and a high and soft cervix.
What causes cramping after ovulation?
Now, since we’ve already identified when ovulation happens in the menstrual cycle, here are the most common reasons you will have cramps after your ovulation
1. Ovulation cramps
One other symptom of ovulation is pain on the left or right side of the abdomen. This pain, also called mittelschmerz pain, may occur before, during, or after ovulation has occurred.
Cramps before ovulation happen as the follicle stimulating hormone and estrogen cause growth of the follicles at the ovaries. At this time, it is possible that you may experience some form of pain in the left or right side of the abdomen depending on which ovary is releasing an egg
Cramps during ovulation happen as the matured follicles rupture and release its content into the abdominal space. Within each follicle is the egg to be released, and also, clear fluid or blood.
During ovulation and rupture of the follicle, the content of the follicle is released into the abdominal cavity, causing irritation and pain.
Cramps after ovulation occur due to spasm and contractions of the fallopian tube as the “released egg” is slowly transported into the body of the uterus.
How to be sure it is ovulation pain (and not something else)
If you experience ovulation cramping and you are worried, here’s how to easily know if it is due to ovulation.
Ovulation pain occurs around your ovulation. This means it happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle.
For example, if you have a 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation pain will likely happen around day-14 of your menstrual cycle.
If pain occurs just after you the end of your period or just when you are about to have your next period, then it is likely, not due to ovulation.
The severity and duration of pain
Another way to easily tell if it is ovulation pain is the duration of the pain. Yes, ovulation pain is shortlived. In fact, for most women, the pain subsides after 24 hours. At most, you may experience discomfort for about two days, which will subside on its own.
So, if you are experiencing pain for days and weeks after your ovulation, it is likely to be something else. You should see your doctor for help.
The location of the pain
Another easy way to tell if you are experiencing ovulation pain or not is the location of the pain. Ovulation pain is usually in your pelvic area or lower abdomen and can radiate to the back.
Pain is usually on one side of the abdomen. This means, if you have pain the spans through your lower abdomen, it is likely not as a result of ovulation.
Is cramps after ovulation a sign of pregnancy? This is a common question I Get from my patients trying to conceive. So, let me explain.
There are different signs of pregnancy. Cramps after ovulation is one of them. However, timing is crucial.
Abdominal pain due to ovulation happens before, during, and around day 1 or day 2 after ovulation. At this time, as already mentioned, spasm at the fallopian tube causes mild abdominal pain.
During pregnancy, belly cramps result from implantation. Implantation occurs when your fertilized egg digs into the thickened inner lining of the uterus called endometrium.
This causes slight bleeding called implantation spotting, and also, cramps in the lower abdomen.
If you think you are pregnant, here’s a simple checklist to help you.
1. You’ve had intercourse
To get pregnant, you must have had intercourse. And most importantly, you must have had unprotected intercourse during your ovulation period.
If you are sure when you last had unprotected intercourse, you can use this menstrual cycle calculator to check if it falls within your fertile period.
If you did have intercourse at your fertile period and now have cramps, it is likely it could be an early sign of pregnancy.
2. Cramps occur just before the next period
The timing of pregnancy cramps is crucial. For ovulation cramps, it happens before, during, and just after ovulation. However, if pregnant, abdominal cramps occur about 5 or 6 days after ovulation (it could happen later).
This is because it takes a while for the fertilized egg to be transported from the fallopian tube and implanted into the uterus. In some women, it may take 5 or 6 days, while it may take up to 12 days for others.
In other words, if you have cramps a day after ovulation, you are not pregnant. If you also have cramps 2 days after ovulation, you are not pregnant. If you also have cramps 3 days after ovulation you are also not pregnant. Likewise, craps 4 days after ovulation is likely not due to pregnancy.
At the earliest, pregnancy cramps occur 5 days after ovulation.
3. You will experience other symptoms of pregnancy
Just like ovulation, if you are pregnant, you will experience other signs of pregnancy. These include food cravings, weight gain, vomiting and nausea, back pain, implantation spotting, increased urination, headache, and mood swings.
If you do, and you are yet to miss your period, you can take a pregnancy test. You must also know it could be a negative result if carried out too early.
So, it is important you take a test after you’ve missed your period.