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Pregnancy brings many changes to the body. Some of these changes can cause mild discomfort or mild cramping during ovulation. Ovarian pain can cause pain on one side of a woman’s lower abdomen or pelvic area. It can also cause pain in their thighs.
Ovarian pain may be a sign that implantation is taking place, or it may be a reaction to the hormonal changes experienced during early pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have severe or persistent pain along with the following symptoms you should report it to your doctor:
- Vaginal bleeding
Learn more about what causes ovulation cramps and more in this article.
8 Causes of Ovulation Cramps
The following can cause pain in the ovaries during early pregnancy:
1. Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg lodges somewhere other than inside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Sharp or stabbing pain, usually on one side of the pelvis or abdomen
- Vaginal bleeding that is more or less than a normal period
- Gastrointestinal or stomach problems
Seek immediate medical attention if you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy. Tubal pregnancy is not viable and if left untreated can lead to ruptured tubal tubes and other serious complications.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain
- Back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Passage of tissue or secretions through the vagina
If you have symptoms of miscarriage, talk to your doctor. There is no way to stop a miscarriage, but in some cases, medications or surgery are needed to prevent complications.
3. Ovarian Cyst
Most ovarian cysts are asymptomatic and harmless. However, cysts that continue to grow can rupture, twist, and cause complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Symptoms of an ovarian cyst include:
- Pelvic pain that can be isolated to one side
- Bloating, heaviness, or gas
- Pain with fever and vomiting
Seek medical attention if you have sharp or stabbing pain, especially fever or vomiting. You should also let your gynecologist know if you have any known ovarian cysts. They may want to monitor cysts throughout your pregnancy.
4. Ovarian Rupture and Torsion
Ovarian rupture is a medical emergency. Internal bleeding may occur. Ovarian torsion is also an emergency where a large cyst causes the ovary to twist or move from its original position. This can cut off the blood supply to the ovaries. Symptoms of a rupture or twist include:
- One-sided shooting pelvic pain
- Quick breathing
Always tell hospital staff about your pregnancy and symptoms. An ultrasound or MRI may be required. Doctors can then decide whether surgery is needed or recommend alternative treatment options.
Implantation occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. It usually occurs 6 to 12 days after conception. This process occurs before it has progressed far enough for a positive pregnancy test.
Implantation cramps can be an early sign of pregnancy, but it’s impossible to know if a cramp is a sign of pregnancy or impending menstruation until you get a positive pregnancy test. If your period doesn’t come when you expect it, take a pregnancy test after 3 days to 1 week to confirm your pregnancy.
6. Endometriosis or Adhesions
Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue similar to the endometrium grows outside the uterine cavity. During the menstrual cycle, mucosal tissue responds to hormones that irritate the affected area, causing extrauterine bleeding and inflammation. Scar tissue or endometrial adhesions may develop, which is especially painful during menstruation.
Similarly, intrauterine adhesions, also known as Asherman’s syndrome, can occur if you have had previous surgery. This includes dilation and curettage (D&C) or cesarean section. Previous infections in the uterus can also cause these adhesions. People may also develop Asherman’s syndrome of unknown cause.
Doctors may order a hysteroscopy or laparoscopy because they cannot see these conditions during a routine ultrasound. These are surgical procedures that allow the doctor to see directly inside the uterus and pelvis.
Once you’ve seen a doctor make sure everything’s fine, you’ll probably have normal ovulation symptoms. Continue to monitor for changes in symptoms.
7. Infection or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Is your pain accompanied by an unusual or foul-smelling discharge? Do you have a fever? Do you burn when you urinate?
These symptoms may indicate a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted infection (STI) that requires urgent medical attention.
Even medical procedures and childbirth can cause infections. Sometimes a urinary tract infection (UTI) can even cause generalized pelvic pain. Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and human papillomavirus (HPV) are spread through unprotected sex.
8. Other Possible Causes
Other causes of pain near the ovary during early pregnancy include:
- Gastrointestinal or stomach disorders
- Stretching of the uterus
Tell your doctor about your symptoms during your first pregnancy.
How to Relieve Ovulation Cramps?
Ovarian pain during pregnancy that does not go away on its own may require treatment by a doctor. However, if your doctor does not recommend treating your pain with medications, you may be able to treat mild discomfort at home.
Relief Methods for Ovulation Cramps
Many pain relievers are not safe to take during early pregnancy. Consult your doctor before taking pain relievers. Treatment for ovarian pain depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, no treatment is required.
When treating ovarian cysts, doctors consider factors such as
- The size of the cyst, whether it has ruptured or twisted
- How long you have been pregnant
They will make treatment recommendations that will yield the healthiest results for you and your baby. In some cases, surgery can be safely performed during pregnancy. Your medical team will explain to you the risks and possible consequences, depending on your situation.
If your pain is caused by an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe the drug methotrexate, which can stop the growth of rapidly dividing cells. If drugs don’t work, surgery may be needed.
If you have a miscarriage, you may be able to continue the pregnancy to term at home. Other cases may require medication to clear the tissue of the abortion, or procedures known as dilation and curettage (D and C). D and C are minor surgeries that can be used to remove tissue from lost pregnancies.
Here are some things you can do to ease the discomfort of mid-cycle pain.
- Ask your doctor about birth control pills to prevent ovulation.
- Try over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol).
At-home Relief Methods for Ovulation Cramps
Place a heating pad on the affected area or take a warm bath. You should also check with your doctor before applying heat such as from a warm compress. Too much heat can cause serious birth defects.
- Change positions slowly, especially when transitioning from sitting to standing. This can reduce the incidence of pain.
- If you experience any exercise-related discomfort, get plenty of rest and change or reduce your exercise routine.
- Take a warm (not hot) bath.
- Drink lots of water.
- Apply gentle pressure to the painful area.
When Should You Seek a Doctor’s Help?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that a woman between the ages of 21 and 29 should have a Pap smear every three years to screen for cervical cancer. The ACOG also recommends that women aged 30 to 65 have a Pap smear test every 3 years and an HPV test every 5 years.
According to the ACOG, women over the age of 65 do not need cervical cancer screening unless they have a history of:
- Abnormal cervical cells
- A history of abnormal Pap test results
- Cervical cancer
Every menstruating person should see a once a year with a gynecologist for a complete pelvic exam and to discuss other gynecological health concerns. You may not need to have a Pap smear every time, but it is recommended to have it done once a year. Call your doctor today if your visit is delayed or if you have pain or other symptoms.
A Final Word
For many menstruating women, mid-cycle pain is simply a sign of ovulation. Several other medical conditions can cause pelvic pain, some of which can be serious conditions if left untreated. It’s always a good idea to take care of your body and report anything new or unusual to your doctor.