I have cramps after ovulation, am I pregnant? Can you have post ovulation cramping after days, a week or longer? What usually causes these cramping that are often one side?
Ovulation is the entire process by which a matured ovarian follicle releases an egg (ovum) and its moving to the fallopian tube for fertilization. It often happens midway on your menstrual cycle and lasts for one to two days. During the process, it is normal for some women to experience cramping before, during or after this process i.e. “one-sided, lower abdominal pain” [mayoclinic.org] or mittelschmerz.
The process of release of an ovum takes a moment. The ovum has a lifespan of not more than 24 hours. However, one can get pregnant for up to 5 days at around the time they are ovulating since a sperm can live for a longer time. Disintegration if no fertilization happens begins after 12 to 24 hours from the time of release.
Normally, about 1 in every 5 women in their childbearing age experience some form of cramping or pain during and/or after ovulation. This pain may range from being a sharp pain to mild pain (dull ache), a twinge, a minor pinch that lasts for a moment or slight cramping that is often one-sided, comes all over a sudden, switches sides periodically (in each month), occurs midway in your menstrual cycle and may last for a short while or for much longer.
Furthermore, cramping can be continuous from the onset of ovulation for a day or two or be intermittent (come and goes) and it varies from one person to another.
If the menstrual like cramps after ovulation are severe, one might feel nauseated. Furthermore, you may have light vaginal bleeding (spotting), have an elevated body temperature, notice slippery and slick mucus, as well as some PMS symptoms including “breast enlargement and tenderness (sore breasts), abdominal bloating and moodiness” [www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au]
Causes severe or mild cramping
With a clearer understanding of what ovulation is, it is time to try to give possible causes of abdominal cramps after you are done ovulating. The exact cause of this period like cramps after or during ovulation is not known. However, there are several possible theories that have been advanced to try to explain the cause of abdominal pain during and after you have ovulated:
1. Stretching of the ovary surface
The first possible explanation is the stretching of the ovary surface as follicle grows (folliculogenesis). Hormones often make the ovary to produce about 20 follicles each with an immature egg. Only one of the follicles will be able to survive to reach full maturity.
Therefore, “it is supposed that ovulation pain is caused by the expanding follicle stretching the membrane of the ovary” [betterhealth.vic.gov.au].
2. Rupturing of the follicle and breaking of ovary wall
For a mature ovum to be released, it has to burst from the follicle. This causes mild bleeding or ovulation spotting. The process of rupturing of the follicle and as the ovum forces itself or breaks through the walls of the ovary may result in lower abdominal cramps.
3. Mucus and/or some blood release during rupturing
As one is ovulating, the ovum, some fluid, and some blood may be released from the ovary as it raptures. According to webmd.com, “it is believed that the fluid or blood may irritate the lining of the abdominal cavity, causing pain.” This can further be supported by the presence some discharge that may contain very small amounts of blood.
4. Uterus and fallopian tube spasms
Mild post ovulation abdominal pain can often be a result of spasms in the fallopian tube that tend to force the ovum from the fallopian tube after 12-24 hours, for implantation (if it has been fertilized) or as it awaits disintegration and being shed off during the menstrual cycle that follows.
5. Constipation after you ovulate (post constipation)
Usually, about 2% of women often experience slow bowel movement or constipation 7 to 10 days after you ovulate. This is thought to be triggered by progesterone hormone. Constipation might be responsible for slight cramping after ovulation or mild lower abdominal aches and pain, a common symptom of pregnancy in women too.
To avoid constipation, drink lots of water, exercise, eat small regular meals with high fiber content and do not ignore the urge to go to the toilet.
There could be other causes of light cramping after you have ovulated, which have not mentioned since the actual cause is not yet known.
Sometimes, it is not just ovulation or having your PMS that cause abdominal cramping. There are health conditions that might result to the 'painful ovulation like cramps' and they include STDs, salpingitis, pelvic bacterial infection from various procedures, endometriosis, fallopian tube mucus congestion, cysts in ovaries as well as adhesions from previous surgeries.
When on Clomid?
Clomid is oral medications often prescribed to treat women infertility by helping increase production of hormones that help in the growth of ovum to maturity and its release.
If you are on Clomid, it is easy to assume you are pregnant, suffering from post ovulation symptoms or you have PMS symptoms since it can cause side effects such as breast tenderness, headache, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, abdominal uterine bleeding, bloating or stomach upsets, pelvis or abdominal fullness, dizziness, hot flashes, blurred vision, etc.
Cramping days later
Abdominal pains due to ovulation normally last for up to two days. However, if the pain lasts for much a longer time, see a doctor since it could be another problem such as appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy or ovarian cysts.
Let us not look at day-to-day post ovulation cramping as we try to give some explanations to what could be happening. The chart below, showing pregnancy percentages by DPO (days past ovulation) is courtesy of betterpregnancies.com. It is going to further help us illustrate the issue well.
1. After one day
Cramping right after you have ovulated or cramps a day or two after is quite normal for some women i.e. the “abdominal pain that accompanies ovulation… may last just a moment or a dull achy feeling that may last from several hours to two days” [theovulationsymptoms.com]. The possible reasons for cramping are just what we have already discussed.
“My husband and I tried for a baby this month and I have noticeable cramping in my midsection already. I am only 1 day after ovulation. Is this an early sign of pregnancy? Just curious. – Leah posted in [forums.thebump.com].
Unfortunately, for Leah, it is early to conclude whether the cramping has anything to do with the pregnancy. It is just a sign of ovulation. She will have to wait a little longer to see other pregnancy signs.
2. After two days
As already seen, during the first up to two days after you have ovulated, it is normal to experience cramping. If you are on Clomid, it might be some of the side effects already seen especially if Clomid causes stomach upsets and abdominal pain.
3. After three days
Is it normal to have cramps 3 days after you have ovulated or could you be pregnant? Cramping 3DPO is not a clear sign of pregnancy since implantation cramping could occur much later.
Due to physiological differences, it is normal for cramping to go past the two days i.e. into the third day but it should appear to clear up. The follicular fluid that causes irritation can take a little longer to be absorbed or ruptured membrane may still be healing.
4. After 4 days
Abdominal pain or cramps 4 days after ovulation accompanied with “vomiting or vomiting blood, blood in stool, increased pain, feeling faint or dizzy, high fever, difficult or painful urination, swollen abdomen or difficulty in breathing” [babyhopes.com] requires you to see a doctor immediately.
About 10% of women have stomach pain 4dpo with 6.5% being pregnant.
5. After 5 days
If you still have cramps 5 days after you ovulated, it could be early implantation, side effects of Clomid (if using them when you are trying to conceive TTC) or another underlying problem. 12% of women experience cramps on their 5th day after they have ovulated with 7.5% of them being pregnant.
6. Cramps 6 days later
This is the onset of implantation if fertilization happened. Therefore, if you have cramps 6 days after ovulation, it could be implantation cramps.
7. After a week
It might sound strange but it is possible to be cramping 7 days after you ovulated. Cramps a week after ovulation affects 16.5% of the women where 11% are pregnant.
For people who have shorter menstrual cycles, cramps a week after could be PMS setting in while you assume you are having post ovulation cramps. Furthermore, at this time, implantation could be happening (i.e. you are having implantation cramps), meaning you are pregnant.
Is it sign of pregnancy or conception
Cramping is not just a symptom of PMS but also a symptom of early pregnancy. If it happens a few days after fertilization or conception i.e. “anywhere from six to 12 days after the egg is fertilized” [webmd.com]. Of course, you are most likely to be pregnant at around the time of ovulation.
This cramping happens “when the embryo burrows into the lining of the uterus…. may start earlier in your cycle than when PMS starts, and maybe more intense than typical pre-menstrual cramps” [justmommies.com]. Most women will tend to assume it is a PMS sign when it could be a sign of pregnancy.
If the cramping is due to conception, it usually starts as from the 5th or 6th day from when you ovulated. Some women may experience a few more symptoms of pregnancy that include breast tenderness, fatigue, spotting due implantation bleeding, bloating, a backache, “white, milky discharge from her vagina” [webmd.com]or white discharge due to an increase of cells as the vagina walls thicken, something that happens almost immediately after conception has occurred.
However, if you are trying to conceive (TTC) you should not conclude cramps after ovulation is a sign of pregnancy even if you having a few more signs we have mentioned since some women experience similar symptoms just before a normal monthly period as part of their premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In fact, many women have these symptoms but not pregnant
If you have mild cramps after ovulation, you might ignore them. If you can't stand them, trying remedies such as over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen will be helpful in minimizing your discomfort.
Severe cases of pain might require “birth control such as oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) that prevent ovulation from taking place can stop the pain from occurring” [emedicinehealth.com]
Our sources and references
- Pregnancy Symptoms: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-am-i-pregnant
- Early Signs of Conception: http://www.justmommies.com/pregnancy/am-i-pregnant/early-signs-conception
- Mittelschmerz: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mittelschmerz/basics/definition/con-20025507
- Ovulation, Cramps and Abdominal Pain: http://www.theovulationsymptoms.com/ovulation-cramps-and-abdominal-pain/
- Ovulation Pain: When Cramps Come in the Middle of Your Cycle: http://www.everydayhealth.com/pms/ovulation-pain.aspx
- Mittelschmerz: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/mittelschmerz/page6_em.htm
- What Can I Do to Relieve Ovulation Pain? http://www.babyhopes.com/articles/ovulation-pain-relief.html