Why am I cramping after ovulation? What does it mean? Am I pregnant if I get mild pain a few days to a week after ovulating? Post-ovulation pain can be mild or light to severe in some women, depending on the cause. It can occur a day, 2, 3, 4, 5 days or even a week after you finish ovulating. Here’s what each means.
After ovulation, some women will experience cramps accompanied by some spotting of a pink to light brown color. The cramps may occur as severe lower abdominal pain after ovulation from a day to a week after ovulation.
With each day after the ovulation, the meaning of these cramps changes. If you are experiencing these cramps, you may be wondering whether you are pregnant or what their cause is. Below are all the facts about the pain after your ovulation is over.
What is cramping?
- What is cramping?
- What is ovulation?
- What causes severe or mild cramping after ovulation?
- Meanings of cramping pain days after ovulation
- Is cramping after ovulation a sign of pregnancy?
- Ovulation cramps vs. implantation cramps
- Home remedies for post-ovulation cramps relief
Cramping is a medical term that refers to the sudden and involuntary muscle over-shortening or contraction with the result being pain and mobility-paralysis in the given muscle. Cramping occurs in both skeletal and smooth muscles. The focus is on smooth muscles given that their contraction is what causes menstruation.
During the process of menstruation, the endometrium contracts in order to shed its lining which passes out as menses. That contracting of the endometrium (wall of the uterus) is what causes cramps or menstrual pain.
- The same kind of pain can, however, be felt during other processes in the menstrual cycle such as during ovulation and implantation of a fertilized egg to the walls of the uterus.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the process by which an egg is released from the ovary into the fallopian tube for fertilization by a sperm. Given that one has two ovaries, the egg should come from either side (left or right). If each of the ovaries releases an egg at the same time and they are both fertilized, one could have twins that are not identical to one another.
- Ovulation pain on both sides.
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Ovulation occurs about midway the menstrual cycle. That is to say that, if one has a normal menstrual cycle of 28 days, ovulation should occur between the 12th and 16th day. The exact halfway mark of the 14th day is rarely the ovulation day for most women.
- Some women may feel cramping and some light bleeding during and after ovulation which is perfectly normal.
What causes severe or mild cramping after ovulation?
Why do I get mild cramps after ovulation or severe menstrual-like cramps after ovulation? The ovulation process involves the egg being released from the ovaries to the fallopian tubes towards the uterus. If fertilized, the egg will attach itself on the uterine wall. Before jumping to conclusion on the suspicion of pregnancy, there are many causes of severe or mild cramping after ovulation.
1. Follicle rupturing and the breaking of the wall of the ovary
After maturing, the egg will have to be released from the ovaries and specifically the follicles. The process entails bursting open the follicle before the egg can start the journey through the fallopian tube to the uterus.
This bursting process is associated with some bleeding and pain in the lower abdomen. The bleeding is often very light and referred to as ovulation bleeding.
2. Spasms of the fallopian and uterus
The spasms that occur in the fallopian tube and the uterus are one of the causes of cramps after ovulation. After the egg is released, spasms will force the egg through the fallopian tube towards the uterus.
A spasm is basically an involuntary contract of a muscle in response to the existing conditions. When the fallopian tube and the uterus experience these spasms, some pain is experienced in the form of cramps.
Folliculogenesis refers to the stretching of the surface of the ovary in response to the growth of the egg. Each ovary will produce approximately 20 follicles for each menstrual cycle. Each of these follicles has one egg which ought to grow to maturity.
Although only one egg makes it to maturity, the growth from an immature one to the mature and ready-to-be-fertilized one involves significant growth in size. With the size increase, the egg will stretch the membrane of the follicle until it finally ruptures it and goes to the fallopian tube.
- Both the rupturing and the growth processes are associated with pain in the form of cramps.
4. The release of blood and mucus in ovulation
As the follicles rupture to release the mature egg, there is the release of mucus combined with some blood from this process. As the blood and mucus move through the abdominal cavity outwards, they could irrigate the cavity leading to cramps after ovulation. In some women, the remnants of ovulation would be discharged as a pink or brownish discharge.
5. Post-ovulation constipation
A small number of women (2%) will experience constipation about a week to 10 days after their ovulation. The constipation will be accompanied with some cramping. The cause of this constipation is due to the increased amount of the hormone progesterone during the ovulation stage.
This hormone is in a higher amount at the ovulation stage since it prepares the body for a pregnancy in the case that the ovulation process is followed by fertilization. One way it does that is to increase the energy reserves of the body by slowing down the bowel movements.
Slower bowel movements ensure that the body absorbs as many nutrients from the food eaten as possible. This process is often associated with cramping in some women.
Other reasons as to why one would experience cramps after their ovulation exist but these ones are the major ones. However, it would not be an abnormality if there is no pain or bleeding of any kind right after the ovulation process has taken place.
6. Illnesses and problems that may cause post-ovulation cramping
Of note is the fact that cramping after your ovulation may also be caused by reasons other than those linked to cramps. These are mostly diseases that may be accompanied by other symptoms to differentiate them from ovulation pain. They include;
- Endometriosis: this is a case where the endometrium, the tissue that should be lining the inside of the uterus, grows outside of the uterus. It is often very painful.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS); Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a combination of symptoms one of which is pain in the abdomen that is similar to cramps.
- Kidney Stones; while kidney stones develop in the kidney, it is not rare for them to develop in other places along the urinary tract.
- Gallstones; gallstones are also very painful with their pain being very similar to the cramps felt during a period or ovulation.
- Ovarian cysts; ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs which develop in either ovary or both. They are very common and quite a pain.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI); these infections are caused by bacteria and may occur anywhere along the urinary tract with varying degrees of cramp-like pain.
- Ectopic pregnancy; an ectopic pregnancy will occur when the fertilized egg does not travel all the way to the uterine wall before attaching itself on it. Rather, it attaches itself on the walls of the fallopian tube. This pain will, however, only be felt when the pregnancy has advanced.
- Fibromyalgia; this is a disease of a chronic or long-term nature which affects various parts of the body including the female reproductive system.
- Celiac disease; this is a health condition whose cause is the abnormal reaction of the immune system to gluten. While it primarily affects the digestive system, other organs of the body are often affected too.
- Polio; the polio virus affects the nervous system with pain in the abdomen a common symptom.
- Ovarian cancer; this is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and it affects various parts of the ovary.
Meanings of cramping pain days after ovulation
In the above sections, it has only been about the causes of cramping after ovulation. However, while the cramping will occur a few days after the ovulation, here are the reasons for ovulation after every day of ovulation. From the first day to the tenth day after ovulation, the cramping is explained here.
1. Cramping 1 day after ovulation
Menstrual-like pain right after ovulating can be felt for about two days and it will simply be ovulation cramping and nothing more. While the ovulation process itself would have occurred the previous day, the pain may linger for longer periods than anticipated. When the ovulation pain is still around after the ovulation itself is over, the pain is referred to as Mittelschmerz.
Unknown to many people, ovulation does not occur in a single incidence. It takes between 12 to 24 hours hence the likelihood of having the pain on the next day. At this stage, it is too early to say you are pregnant.
2. Cramping 2 days after ovulation, am I pregnant?
On the second day after ovulation, cramping could mean you are either pregnant, or you are not. The chances of being pregnant or not are a perfect 50/50. Thus, jumping into conclusion about the pregnancy is still too early a conclusion to make.
On one hand, there is the possibility that the cramping will be coming from the ovulation itself. If the egg was not fertilized when it came out of the follicle, it would be disintegrating to be absorbed back into the body over the next 48 hours.
On the other hand, if the mature egg was successfully fertilized, the cramping you would be feeling would be as a result of the egg dividing into multiple cells which would later become an embryo. It is, however, unlikely that you would be feeling any pain during the cell division of the fertilized embryo. For this case, you are pregnant, but it is not easy to tell.
This thus leaves out one major explanation for cramping on the second day after ovulation; remnants of ovulation pain. If, however, you feel pain that is almost unbearable on this second day, see a doctor.
3. Cramping 3 days post-ovulation; what does it mean?
Cramping on the third or fourth day after ovulation may mean you are pregnant although it still isn’t always the case.
- If the egg was fertilized upon being released from the ovary, the third and fourth day would be the day when it arrives in the uterus for implantation to its walls. If it would not have been fertilized by then, it will be fully disintegrated and absorbed into the body.
During the same period, your body would experience an increased amount of the progesterone hormone in preparation of the coming baby (if it is there). The results of the increased progesterone hormone are a thicker uterine wall, slowed digestion processes among other bodily changes.
Essentially, you should feel very light pain on this day since nothing to warrant intense pain would be taking place.
If you take a pregnancy test on the third or fourth day after ovulation, the results would mostly be negative even if you are actually pregnant. Thus, it’s still too early to draw conclusions on whether it means you are pregnant or not at this stage.
4. Cramping 5 days after ovulation
If the cramps are felt on the fifth day after ovulation, there are higher chances that you are pregnant than before. In most women, however, the pain is rarely there even when they are pregnant.
The only way to be sure is to take a pregnancy test. The problem is that it too will not be a sure way of knowing whether you are pregnant. Pregnancy test kits are meant to test the amount of the hormone progesterone in the blood. As stated earlier, the amount of progesterone will go up during pregnancy. However, on the 5th day after ovulation, there is very little presence of this hormone in the bloodstream to give a positive result on a pregnancy kit.
The wise decision to make here would be to wait a few more days before taking the pregnancy test.
5. Cramping a week after ovulation
A week or 7 days after ovulation is when the fertilized eggs would be completing its implantation on the walls of the uterus. There may be cramps or none even if one is pregnant.
- If the cramps are present, they would most likely be implantation cramps. Implantation cramping may be accompanied by some bleeding which is referred to as implantation spotting.
- You may experience cramps and bleeding but these two are not the only signs you need to be sure you are pregnant. It is still advisable to wait for some more days before taking a test as it would still be inaccurate on this day.
While these early signs of a pregnancy may exist, some women will rarely have any of these signs even when they are pregnant. It is neither a good nor bad thing that you have the signs.
6. Implantation cramps 6 to 10 days post ovulation
Between the 6th to the 10th day after ovulation, the cramps you would be feeling will be mostly signs of a pregnancy.
On the 6th day, the fertilized egg would be preparing itself for the implantation process to the walls of the uterus. This preparation process is known to cause cramps and even some bleeding. This is also the day when the implantation process will begin in most women. If you experience abdominal pain on this day, therefore, you are likely to be pregnant.
- On the 7th day after ovulation, the cramps would be those of the implantation process coming to an end.
The implantation process is signified with mild pain and some bleeding since the fertilized egg often burrows into the wall of the uterus.
The 8th day after ovulation would be a sure way of confirming if you are pregnant or not. The cramps you feel on this day will still be that from implantation. While the normal period for the egg to implant itself on the walls of the uterus are between the 6th and the 7th day after ovulation, some women can experience the implantation up to the 10th day after ovulation.
Unless you take a pregnancy test to confirm the pregnancy, other signs of a pregnancy felt on the 8th day after ovulation include;
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Tender breasts
- Increased amount of cervical fluid
- Sensitive or sore nipples
- Vivid dreams
Even with several of these signs, only a correctly-done pregnancy test will verify the existence of an embryo in your womb.
Cramps on the 9th day after ovulation send an even stronger message on the possibility of being pregnant. Besides the fact that you will be near your next period and the suspicion of an early period is high, it could be the various processes occurring inside your body as a result of the pregnancy. Keep it in mind that this would be the 23rd day from your previous period (if you have a regular menstrual cycle that is). It is only five days away from your period and there are cases of early cramps before the period.
The only way to interpret the signs in your body is through using a pregnancy kit. At this time, the amount of progesterone hormone in the body would be high enough to give an accurate reading on your pregnancy status.
On the 10th day after ovulation, the cramps you feel can either be those of a pregnancy or the incoming menstrual flow. Remember, it is the 24th day of a 28-day cycle and thus very close to the next period.
If they are not the signs of a baby starting to develop inside you, they could very well be what is referred to as Premenstrual Symptoms (PMS). This is a collection of symptoms that come just before the next period occurs. They can start as early as 5 days to the period. Premenstrual Symptoms are very similar to those of early pregnancy hence you will need to carry out a pregnancy test to ascertain whether you are expectant or not.
- Weight gain
- Low sex drive
- Food cravings
- Breast swelling and soreness
- Constipation and many others.
Is cramping after ovulation a sign of pregnancy?
The answer to that is No and Yes since it is dependent upon many different factors. The only way to know is to take a pregnancy test at the time you would be expecting your periods.
The cramps can occur for three main reasons namely;
- Premenstrual Symptoms
- A medical condition.
Ovulation cramps vs. implantation cramps
Many women confuse ovulation cramps with implantation cramps. While both seem to be of the same degree of pain, their occurrence is different from one another as far as the menstrual cycle is concerned.
Ovulation cramps occur at the time of ovulation which is when the mature egg ruptures from the ovary and starts traveling through the fallopian tube towards the uterus. The rupturing of the ovary is what causes the cramps in most women. The intensity of the pain should range from mild to non-existent. It can also be accompanied by some light spotting.
Ovulation cramps should occur midway the menstrual cycle which is between the 12th and 16th days of a 28-day cycle.
On the other hand, implantation cramps are felt between the day of ovulation and the next period. Specifically, they occur between the 6th to the 7th day after ovulation.
After the egg has moved away from the ovary and is travelling in the fallopian tube, fertilization may or may not occur. If it occurs, the fertilized eggs will complete the journey to the uterus and start implanting itself on it. This implantation process involving the egg burrowing itself into the wall of the uterus where it will grow to a baby in 9 months. Implantation cramps will often be followed by some light spotting.
While they occur at different times in the menstrual cycle, both implantation and ovulation cramps are mild when compared to the cramps felt during a period. Also, if there is any bleeding, it would be lighter than what is experienced during menstruation.
If the flow is heavy and the pain is severe during the times when ovulation or implantation should be occurring, you should see a medical doctor.
Home remedies for post-ovulation cramps relief
While cramps after ovulation are rarely severe, taking a few steps will ensure that you keep the pain at bay. Before you rush into grabbing a painkiller, these home remedies will sooth your post-ovulation cramps just as well.
- Apple cider vinegar
Add a tablespoon of vinegar in a glass of warm water and drink the mixture every few hours. The abdominal pain will soon be gone.
- Hot water
Heat some water and place it in a bottle then press it against your tummy or the painful area on the body. It will reduce the pain in a short while.
- Baking soda
When mixed with warm water, baking soda is a great solution to abdominal pain.
Fennel seeds can do away with post-ovulation cramps when eaten raw. However, this method is not recommended especially if you are in suspicion of being pregnant.
These remedies are better than drugs as they have no known side effects yet work perfectly.
- Mayo Clinc Staff (Jan 5, 2017) “Symptoms of pregnancy: What Happens First”
- Charles R. B. Beckmann (2010) “Obstetrics and Gynecology” pg. 306
- H. F. Hunter (2003) “Physiology of the Graafian Follicle and Ovulation”
- Carolyn Levett (2008) “Reclaim Your Life – Your Guide to Aid Healing of Endometriosis”