Cramping After Ovulation? Here’s What It Means

crampsCramping after ovulation can be one indication that you are pregnant. It does not always mean you are not pregnant however, since it can sometimes be caused by something else. Therefore, while cramping can be a positive sign of a pregnancy, it is not an infallible one. To understand the relationship between ovulation and any cramping that may occur following ovulation, it might be best to review what takes place during ovulation and then see why that process can cause pain or cramping, or whether the discomfort is due to something else.

Ovulation and Mittelschmerz

Ovulation is said to occur when an egg is being released from one of your ovaries. This normally happens roughly 12 to 14 days before the beginning of your period. Each of the two ovaries will release an egg on a more or less periodic basis, but not necessarily at the same time. The relationship between the ovaries as far as releasing their eggs is concerned is more or less a random one. When an egg is released, which happens to be the ripest egg in an ovary at the time, it will enter one of your fallopian tubes. It will survive in the fallopian tube for no more than about 24 hours, so in order to become pregnant, sperm has to enter the fallopian tube during that time or already be present. The window for becoming pregnant is not quite a week. It is from roughly five days before ovulation to one day after.

Approximately 20 percent of women who become pregnant experience some pain after ovulation. This pain, called mittelschmerz, can be mild to severe, and it can last from a few minutes to several days. Sometimes, it is only pressure or pain that is experienced, which generally is felt either in the lower abdominal area in the vicinity of the ovaries, or in the lower back. At other times, mittelschmerz can be accompanied by involuntary spasmodic contraction.

Mittelschmerz is therefore a fairly positive sign that you’re pregnant, but there is more than one reason why an involuntary muscular contraction can occur, and these are worth knowing. The first of these is post menstrual cramping.

Post Menstrual Syndrome Cramping

pmsPost Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) cramping is a fairly common occurrence. Women who have not experienced it before can sometimes take it as an indication that they are pregnant, only to be disappointed when that does not turn out to be the case. It’s an easy mistake to make, since PMS cramping tends to occur several days after ovulation, about the same time as egg implantation will sometimes produce a similar symptom. Many women who experience PMS do not do so until they are in their 30’s, although it is not an uncommon occurrence for women in their teens and twenties. When cramping or other symptoms of PMS begin to make their presence known, it is often suggested by a woman’s doctor that she keep a diary of when the different symptoms occur. Such a diary can prove helpful in treating cases of PMS and can also be helpful in being able to distinguish PMS cramping from that of ovulation, implantation, or something else.

Accompanying symptoms of PMS cramping include lower back pain, headaches, dizziness, tender breasts, and mood swings, to name just a few. There are in fact over 150 different symptoms that can be tied to PMS. Many of these symptoms, including abdominal cramping, are also symptoms of thyroid disease, which is one indication that cramping after ovulation could possibly be tied to a number of different causes.

Exactly when PMS cramping is apt to occur is not all that difficult to pin down. PMS cramping, if it does occur, happens between ovulation and the start of menstrual bleeding, or very shortly thereafter. This is known as the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.

Endometriosis – An Uncommon but Possible Cause of Pain or Cramping

female-reproductive-systemAnother cause of pain, and occasionally cramping, is a condition known as endometriosis. Endometrial tissue is the tissue that lines the interior of the uterus. Sometimes, the cells that make up this tissue grow elsewhere in the body, usually somewhere in the abdominal cavity, and most often in the vicinity of the ovaries or the fallopian tubes. When this tissue lines the uterus, it thickens, breaks down, and bleeds during each menstrual cycle. When these cells attach to the ovaries or fallopian tubes, this cyclic action also will occur, and the result can be an involuntary, spasmodic muscular contraction or pain, since the endometrial growths tend to develop lesions and form scar tissue when the tissue breaks down, which can in turn interfere with the functioning of organs within the reproductive system. One sign that endometriosis may be at the root of the cramping problem is that the pain experienced is usually much more severe than the pain due to either PMS or ovulation.

Cramping Due to Implantation Is Fairly Common

fertilizationAs noted earlier, while cramping is one sign of implantation and pregnancy, it is not always a symptom. Conversely, if it does occur, it isn’t always proof positive that implantation has indeed taken place. Nevertheless, it does tend to be a somewhat positive indicator that something is happening, although many women who have experienced a number of pregnancies never experienced cramping of any kind, at least during the early stages of the pregnancy. About the only way to positively determine that cramping is the result of implantation is to wait until the next period is due. If the period does not take place, it’s most likely that the involuntary muscular contraction being experienced is a positive indication of pregnancy.

Mittelschmerz and Implantation

At this point, you may have come to the conclusion that any cramping that might accompany mittelschmerz and that which sometimes accompanies implantation are the same. That’s not quite the case, however. Two things are happening. These two things happen a few days apart, and either can be a cause of pain. Mittelschmerz, if it occurs, does so at the time the fertilized egg is released from the fallopian tube and enters the uterus or womb. The egg however, does not immediately attach itself to the side of the uterus. It floats freely within the uterus as a tiny, but growing speck. This speck consists of an ever-increasing number of cells. This collection of cells has to reach a certain size before the egg is ready to attach itself to the uterus.

When this finally happens, which is roughly a week following the release of the egg from the fallopian tube, it is called implantation. Implantation, as previously noted, can also cause pain and/or an involuntary muscular contraction, but this is not the same pain as the mittelschmerz that may have been experienced a few days earlier.

Tracking the First Few Days Following Ovulation

menstrual-calendarSince so many women or their doctors keep a log or diary of the menstrual cycles and pregnancies, there is plenty of statistical data available to show what might be expected during the first few days following ovulation insofar as cramping or pain is concerned.


Here is a chart of the pregnancy % by DPO (Days Past Ovulation):


Day One – Roughly 6% of the adult female population experiences cramping or pain on the first day following ovulation. About 2/3 of these women are pregnant; roughly 1/3 are not. Bloating, flatulence and feelings of fatigue account for about the same percentages during the first week after ovulation.

Day Two – The number of those experiencing pain or cramps increases to 7%. About 4.5% are pregnant.

Day Three – The percentages for the total number feeling pain, and for those who are actually pregnant, increases to just under 9% and 6%, respectively.

Days Four, Five and Six – The total percentages increase to 10%, 12%, and 15%, while the percentages of those pregnant have increased to 6.5 %, 7.5%, and 10%.

Day Seven and Beyond – The numbers for the seventh day are 16.5% and 11%. The percentages then begin to level off starting on days eight, nine and ten. Ten days out, the total percentage has increased to 18.5%, but the percentage for those who are pregnant is holding steady at around 12.5%. At the two-week point, the percentages have dropped to 10% and around 8%, or about where they were at day six.

What these numbers suggest is that less than one in ten women experiences cramping or pain during the first few days past ovulation and about two out of three who experience it during the first week to ten days following ovulation are pregnant.

It should probably be mentioned in closing that experiencing cramping following ovulation is something that is completely normal. It is also fairly common, even if the numbers cited here indicate that those who do experience any pain or cramping are in a definite minority. When cramping does occur, most women describe it as being rather mild, and sometimes the cramping is described as nothing more than a dull pressure. As small as an egg is, it would seem to be impossible for it to be responsible for some of the symptoms of ovulation that one can experience. During ovulation and conception, there are a great number of significant changes going on within the female body, and it is these changes that are behind the various symptoms that are sometimes experienced.