Ann Graham with expert comment from Catherine Jeans May 11, 2017

Though it’s a natural part of being a woman, that time of the month is never something we look forward too, even if it does give us an excuse to eat chocolate. But if you’re experiencing discomfort midway through your cycle, you could be suffering from ovulation pain.

What is ovulation pain?

Also known as mittelschmerz, ovulation pain affects 20 percent of women, but what exactly causes it is still unclear. i Women’s health expert, Catherine Jeans, says there are many different symptoms women can experience, though some women do not notice the pain at all.

“Symptoms range from a dull ache in the lower abdomen, on the left or right depending on which side you’re ovulating from that month, to cramping or a sharper pain,” explains Catherine. “The pain can last for just a few seconds, or for some women it can last for a couple of days. Of course, if you’re experiencing any type of sharp abdominal pain, it’s always worth getting this checked out by your GP.” 

How does ovulation pain differ from PMS pain?

“Ovulation pain is different from PMS type pain, mainly because of the specific time in the cycle that it occurs,” says Catherine. “PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome, tends to refer to the cluster of symptoms women experience before or during their period – although do remember that every woman’s menstrual cycle is unique. In the same way not every woman’s cycle is 28 days, we all experience our cycles differently and for some women it can vary from month to month.”

How to ease ovulation pain

While a bar of chocolate may certainly help you feel a little better, it’s unlikely to ease the discomfort of ovulation pain.

“When you experience ovulation pain, using a warm water bottle can help to soothe the area. Just place it around your abdomen, but make sure it’s not too hot,” says Catherine.

The mineral magnesium may also help to relieve cramping. “You can either take it as a supplement, or use magnesium bath salts, as magnesium is absorbed well through the skin,” she says. “Using the double action of the warmth of the bath and the magnesium from the salts is ideal.”

Top tips to manage ovulation pain

The process of ovulation will occur up until a woman enters the menopause, but until then, making some diet and lifestyle changes could help to reduce the pain during this time of the month.

Catherine says the pain itself can be exacerbated by inflammation so recommends eating foods which can help to reduce inflammation, such as turmeric, oily fish, nuts and seeds and their oils. Other foods which can help reduce inflammation include:

  • Dark green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Soya-based products
  • Yoghurt
  • Berries

“Other things to consider are what you can do to support hormonal imbalance,” says Catherine. “This includes reducing your intake of toxins from caffeine, processed foods, alcohol and drugs, and supporting your diet with liver supporting nutrients such as lean protein, brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, and plenty of green leafy vegetables.” 

Could ovulation pain actually be endometriosis?

Ovulation pain, although uncomfortable, isn’t usually harmful; however, it is best to ask your doctor to ensure the pain isn’t symptomatic of endometriosis. A common condition – the NHS estimates endometriosis affects around two million women in the UK – it refers to the diagnosis of small pieces of the womb lining being found elsewhere in the body, outside the womb. ii Endometriosis can cause painful and heavy periods and can adversely affect fertility.

http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/mittelschmerz
References
i. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/mittelschmerz
ii. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Endometriosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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