Millions of women around the world suffer from painful periods. That aching and cramping can really make life difficult, zapping your energy and making daily chores difficult. But a lot of women also experience painful cramps in between their periods. Known as mittelschmerz, this abdominal pain can be just as painful as menstrual cramps, and can occur every month for years on end. Luckily, mittelschmerz can be dealt with to help get you back to enjoying life again.
What is Mittelschmerz?
Mittelschmerz refers to abdominal or pelvic pain that is experienced between periods. The word mittelschmerz actually means "middle pain," because this pain is felt during the middle of your menstrual cycle. Typically occurring around Day 14 of your cycle, mittelschmerz pain coincides with ovulation. The abdominal pain is typically low and one-sided, occurring on the side of the pelvis that you are ovulating from. As many as 1 in 5 women experience mittelschmerz pain every month.
What Causes Mittelschmerz Pain?
It is not known why some women experience mittelschmerz ovulation pain, and others don't. However, there are a number of theories as to why women experience these mid-cycle cramps. During ovulation, your egg is released from a casing, known as a follicle. When the follicle breaks, it releases fluid and blood. This fluid and blood may actually irritate the lining of your abdomen, causing pain. Mittelschmerz may also be caused by the growth and rupture of the ovarian follicle, which can stretch the surface of you ovary, causing pain.
Symptoms of Mittelschmerz
Mittelschmerz syndrome symptoms can range in severity from woman to woman. The main symptom of mittelschmerz is lower abdominal pain that occurs on one side. This pain can:
- be mild to severe
- be intermittent or constant
- switch from side to side every month
- last for a couple of minutes or up to several hours
Other common symptoms of mittelschmerz include:
- mild nausea
- light vaginal bleeding
Your health care provider can diagnose mittelschmerz fairly easily. If your symptoms are similar to those of mittelschmerz, your health care provider will ask you to monitor your cycle, to find out when you are ovulating. If your symptoms occur during ovulation, it is likely that you are experiencing mittelschmerz. More severe symptoms may be a sign that something else is going on.
Warning Signs of Possible Complications
If you are experiencing any abdominal pain or cramping, it is important to keep an eye on your symptoms. If your symptoms escalate, it is a good idea to visit your health care provider in order to rule out any possible complications. Warning signs include:
- severe cramping or pelvic pain
- cramps that last longer than a day
- dizziness or fainting
- painful urination
- swelling of the abdomen
- bloody stool or vomit
Complications of Mittelschmerz
Mittelschmerz pains are very normal, and, on their own, they do not pose any physical risk. However, if your symptoms are severe, you should have your health care provider check you out for any other complications. Your health care provider can perform a pelvic exam or a pelvic ultrasound to make sure that you are not suffering from:
- ovarian cysts
- polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Treating Mittelschmerz Pain
Unless your pain is severe, you likely won't require any treatment for your mittelschmerz pain. Many women do find that over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen help to relieve cramps and related aches and pains.
If your mittelschmerz cramps are particularly troublesome, you may ask your health care provider about trying a hormonal method of birth control. The birth control pill, the birth control patch, and the birth control ring, all release combinations of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, to stop ovulation. Once you are no longer ovulating, your mittelschmerz pains should stop.
Self Treatment for Mittelschmerz Pain
Self treatment is often the best way to alleviate cramps that you experience mid-cycle. Here are some tried and tested ways of getting rid of those aches and pains.
- Drink Water: Try to drink between six and eight glasses of water every day. Water will help to keep you hydrated, which will alleviate those cramps.
- Use a Heating Pad: Heat helps to soothe cramps. Get an electric heating pad and keep it on your abdomen for 15 minutes or so.
- Take a Warm Bath: Fill your tub up with warm water and just relax. The heat of the water will help to relieve any pain.
Chat with other women about various period problems, like cramps, in our menstruation forum.