Let's Talk About That Other "Time of the Month"

I just took an Advil for my pelvic pain—and no—I’m not on my period. I’m one of about 20% of women, according to Everyday Health, who experience ovulation pain, a condition also known as mittelschmerz, the German word for “middle” and “pain”.


Mittelschmerz is one-sided abdominal pain in the middle of your menstrual cycle. It depends on which ovary is releasing an egg. It is completely random so each month I’m not sure which side of my body I will feel pain. Mid-cycle pain or discomfort can range from a sharp twinge of pain that lasts for a few minutes to a dull ache that lasts for a few days. A variety of other symptoms come with this time of the month.


I want to talk about it because it’s a very real part of my experience as a woman, and of many others’. It’s painful, uncomfortable and challenges me every time.


If you are someone whose body is very sensitive to changes in your reproductive system, maybe you can relate. Chicago is infamously cold at this time of year. Yesterday, it was the third day with temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and everyone was bundled up tight in hats, gloves, and puffy winter coats to ward off the cold.


But not me. I was sweating the entire day. I wore short sleeves under my lighter down jacket, no hat, no gloves, and I was still warm. Then I would have random moments of feeling freezing cold, but mostly, I have just been overheated these past few days. This does have an explanation.


Your basal body temperature, or BBT, is the baseline temperature you can measure first thing in the morning when you get up. Your BBT changes all throughout your cycle as your hormone levels change. In the first half, estrogen dominates. Right before ovulation, your BBT will drop to its lowest point. Immediately, after ovulation, your BBT will rise immediately about a half a degree. For the rest of your cycle until your period, you have more progesterone, which is the hormone that increases your body temperature.

Photo Courtesy of Reader’s Digest


I also experience a bit of bloating when I ovulate. But the most noticeable symptom I have is the pain. This month, I felt both sharp pain and a dull ache. For three days, I would randomly feel the twinge of pain in my right side, where I was ovulating from, when walking, shifting in my seat, or really doing anything normal during my day. For me, this twinge of pain would last for a few seconds. For the next few days, I wasn’t feeling any sharp pain but instead the dull ache every time I moved my pelvis in a way that stretched or placed pressure on my abdomen.


The exact causes of mittelschmerz is unknown, although doctors and scientists have a few guesses. According to Mayo Clinic, possible reasons for pain include 1) just before ovulation, follicle (the sac that holds the egg) growth stretches the surface of your ovary and 2) blood or fluid released from the ruptured follicle irritates the lining of your abdomen, leading to pain.


For me personally, knowing this information about how my body works has brought me some comfort.


I have had to learn to fight through the voices in my head telling me that it’s my fault that I’m in pain, that something must be wrong with me and my body, or that this is one more reason why I am not good enough. None of that is true. But in all honesty, this past year has been the most difficult for me in loving myself. It’s so hard to love my body when it feels like it fails me.


Ovulation is a natural part of being a woman. I try to think about how, by ovulating, I am better equipped to start a family if I ever want to. I know there are women all over the world who struggle with fertility and other reproductive issues.


It is tricky finding that balance between feeling grateful for the functions of my body and at the same time, acknowledging that I am in pain and struggling. But I think it’s okay to feel both of these things.