Is ovulation pain normal?

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If you go through pain when you ovulate, you're not alone. One in five women experience ovulation pain (also known as mittelschmerz, a German word meaning 'mid pain'), ranging from a few minutes to a couple of days of twinges, aches or intense pain.

Despite it being a common experience, ovulation pain isn't necessarily something you just need to put up with.

Why does it happen?

There is no evidence (in mainstream or alternative medicines) to suggest one cause for ovulation pain. Theories include the emergence of new follicles on the ovaries and ruptured follicles.

In some cases, it can be a sign of more serious conditions such as endometriosis, ovarian cysts or gastrointestinal problems. 

Nat Kringoudis, a Chinese medicine practitioner who specialises in women's hormones and fertility, has another theory. She says ovulation pain often happens when there is excess oestrogen in the body.

When should you get it checked out?

A minor sensation in your body during ovulation can be considered normal. Kringoudis says, "People often describe it as a popping sensation, where they feel ovulation happening, and that's not what we call ovulation pain."

If it's more severe than this, though, it's worth getting checked out. "If it's something that resembles period pain during ovulation, like a dull ache or low-grade pain that goes on in the background and might last for half a day to a couple of days," Kringoudis says, it's time to get help.

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According to Kringoudis, any pain is your body trying to tell you something. "It's common but it shouldn't be there," she says. "It's a symptom that something isn't quite right."

If you're concerned that something doesn't seem right, or if there are other symptoms like bleeding or unusual discharge, see your GP or medical practitioner.

What can you do to help it?

There are ways you can ease the pain, through the use of a hot water bottle, bath or pain killing medications.

If you want to fix the problem, you may need to see a practitioner who specialises in hormones.

One of the first places a holistic practitioner will start is with stress – and this can mean thinking outside the square about what stress is.

"Stress is a major reason that oestrogen can become out of balance," says Kringoudis. "If there are high levels of stress, you might need to look at ways to help your body cope better with stress."

She suggests considering things like exercise, breathing routines to settle the nervous system, or removing things from your days if you feel over-extended.

"All those factors will play a role," Kringoudis explains. "Stress is much more than a deadline, and there are external and internal influences; stress is not eating well, not sleeping, pressure from work or life, and how your body is internally working. Your body doesn't know the difference between different types of stress, it just knows stress."

It then makes sense that your diet and lifestyle can play a part. "We all need to be accountable for our day-to-day activities, because these can make a big difference (to hormone imbalances)," says Kringoudis.

Supplements can assist, too, and Kringoudis recommends a combination of vitex (chaste tree extract) and magnesium. "This can help to rebalance oestrogen and progesterone," she says, "and it helps with the inflammation that is happening in the body as well. This isn't something you have to do on an ongoing basis: doing it for three menstrual cycles is often enough."