Getting cramps when you're not expecting your period can feel a little confusing, but it's not necessarily out of the ordinary. In fact, that discomfort you're feeling in your abdomen might be a sign you're at the ovulation stage of your menstrual cycle.
According to Marco Mouanness, MD, an ob-gyn and fertility expert at the Rejuvenating Fertility Center in the US, ovulation pain (also known as mittelschmerz) is common and typically feels like dull cramps or a sharp pain. Some patients might experience ovulation pain that feels slightly similar to menstrual cramps.
"It usually happens around 14 days prior to the onset of the period and indicates that the mature follicle has ruptured and released an egg into the abdomen," he explained. The Mayo Clinic notes that this discomfort is typically experienced on one side of the lower abdomen.
So what exactly causes this crampy feeling during ovulation? As Dr. Mouanness explained, the main culprit is the leakage of fluid from inside the ruptured follicle, which causes irritation to the abdomen and the surrounding tissue.
It's understandable if you're a little thrown off guard the first time you feel cramps around ovulation, but it's not usually cause for concern. Dr. Mouanness said the discomfort should decrease within 24-48 hours. However, if you're experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, abnormal bowel movements or urinary symptoms, or persistent, severe, or worsening pain, you should contact your doctor, as Dr. Mouanness classified all of these symptoms as warning signs.
Not everyone experiences ovulation pain, so it's not a big deal if you don't feel any discomfort, either. Remember, any concern is worth bringing up with your doctor, so don't hesitate to reach out to your medical provider for questions or advice.