Ovulation bloating: Everything you need to know, including what helps

    Updated 19 December 2023 |
    Published 23 November 2018
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Boyle, Obstetrician and gynecologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts, US
    Written by Kate Hollowood
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    A Flo expert shares the causes and what helps soothe a swollen belly.

    If you find yourself feeling bloated around the middle of your cycle each month, you’re not imagining it. Ovulation bloating is real

    Being bloated feels like having a very full stomach, and your belly might look bigger than normal too. You might also have some stomach pain or rumbling. The good news is, there are some simple things you can do at home to help relieve it. To find out more about what causes ovulation bloating, what can soothe our swollen bellies, and when to speak to a doctor, we spoke to Flo expert Dr. Allison Rodgers, reproductive endocrinologist, obstetrician, and gynecologist, Fertility Centers of Illinois, Illinois, US. 

    Key takeaways

    Ovulation bloating? Or something else?

    Tracking your symptoms in the Flo app can help you see patterns in your cycle

    What is ovulation?

    Ovulation is the point in your menstrual cycle when one of your ovaries releases an egg. In a typical 28-day cycle, this will take place around day 14. But as only 16% of us have a 28-day cycle, you can track your periods using an app like Flo to find out when you might ovulate based on your own cycle length. You can also try our handy ovulation calculator for a quick prediction. 

    And what makes the ovary release an egg? The process occurs thanks to changes in your hormones: 

    • Between days six and 14 of your cycle, follicle-stimulating hormone causes the follicles (small fluid-filled sacs) in one of your ovaries to grow and mature. 
    • During days 10 to 14, one of your follicles develops a fully mature egg.
    • Around days 12 to 13, another hormone comes into play: luteinizing hormone (LH). A surge in LH prompts your ovary to release the egg (ovulation).
    • After ovulation, another hormone called progesterone then rises to help prepare your uterus for possible pregnancy. 
    • After being released from your ovary, the egg travels down your uterine tube, where it lives for 12 to 24 hours. If, during this time, the egg meets and gets fertilized by a sperm, you can become pregnant. 
    • If the egg isn’t fertilized, the lining of your uterus will shed (that’s what your period is), and your menstrual cycle starts again.

    The cycle days listed above are an example of what happens in a 28-day cycle, so keep in mind that these steps may occur earlier or later for you based on your personal cycle.

    Does ovulation cause bloating? 

    Ovulation might be a clever feat of nature, but that doesn’t stop some of its symptoms from being extremely annoying. “Ovulation can cause bloating, although the symptoms are different for everyone,” says Dr. Rodgers. 

    What causes ovulation bloating?

    The hormonal changes that happen mid-cycle can result in increased water retention, which in turn can bring on the bloat. 

    Dr. Rodgers tells us more: “The spike in the hormone LH, followed by the drop in estradiol [a hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle] and a rise in progesterone, can cause bloating, as well as abdominal pain and sometimes diarrhea or loose stools. Prostaglandins [hormone-like substances that affect pain, inflammation, and uterine contractions] are also released, which can cause cramping and discomfort.”

    The physical changes happening to your body during ovulation itself might be contributing to your bloating and cramps, too. “The follicle that contains the egg is the largest at this point of the cycle, which can further [increase] bloating,” adds Dr. Rodgers. 

    Is ovulation bloating normal?

    “It is very common and ‘normal’ to have bloating at this time in the cycle,” says Dr. Rodgers. Similarly, pain during ovulation may impact as many as 40% of women of reproductive age. 

    Dr. Rodgers adds, “Understanding that ovulation bloating can be a normal response to ovulating can be important. It doesn’t mean something is wrong, but on the contrary, means that your body is doing its job to release an egg.” 

    How long does ovulation bloating last?

    The bloating usually happens around the time of ovulation itself, but Dr. Rodgers explains that everyone’s different, so this can vary. “Some people have no bloating and cramps during ovulation at all, some people notice it mainly the day before and day of ovulation, and some people feel bloated from the time they ovulate, until they get their next menstrual cycle,” she says. 

    Other signs of ovulation

    As Dr. Rodgers tells us, bloating is just one symptom of ovulation. Some of the other signs to look out for include the following: 

    Get to know your cycle

    And understand what's normal for you

    Ovulation bloating vs. premenstrual bloating

    Feeling bloated after ovulation? In case you didn’t already know, bloating can be a common premenstrual symptom, too. Again, the bloating before a period is likely caused by your fluctuating hormones

    Knowing the difference between ovulation bloating and premenstrual bloating all comes down to timing. “In a typical 28-day cycle, the LH surge happens around day 13 and ovulation around day 14, so bloating around this time is likely due to those hormonal changes,” says Dr. Rodgers. “Whereas premenstrual bloating is often right before your period starts, when prostaglandins build and estrogen and progesterone fall.” 

    However, it could also occur a little earlier than that. “It can also happen earlier in the luteal phase of the cycle (after ovulation), around day 15, and can last until your period,” she adds. “It really depends on how your body is affected by the hormonal changes throughout the cycle.”

    Thanks to your shifting hormones, you may notice other premenstrual symptoms too, like tiredness, constipation before a period, mood swings, and acne flare-ups. Some women and people with periods also experience period nausea just before and during menstruation. That’s where a period-tracking app like Flo can help. It lets you know when you’re likely to be ovulating, along with when your period is on its way so you’re not second-guessing your symptoms.

    Either way, these symptoms aren’t pleasant, so if you’re experiencing them, try to be kind to yourself by making the most of any self-care methods that help (hot water bottle, anyone?). 

    Tips for managing bloating during ovulation 

    So, now that we know what causes ovulation bloating, what helps soothe a swollen belly?

    Self-care 

    You might not feel like moving much when your belly feels permanently full, but regular exercise such as a walk or bike ride can help to improve digestion and prevent you from feeling bloated. 

    Thankfully, some more pleasurable activities can work wonders, too. (Psst — remember when we said an increased sex drive is common during ovulation?) “Sometimes orgasm and extra sleep can be nonmedical methods that help,” says Dr. Rodgers. 

    Diet 

    Eating smaller, more frequent meals and drinking enough water are simple ways to help manage bloating. Some experts recommend drinking at least eight cups of water per day, but there is no official recommendation on how much water you need, so check with your doctor if you’re not sure whether you’re drinking enough. Limiting salty foods can also help with bloating, as it’s possible that these can make fluid retention worse. 

    Medication 

    You may also find that certain medications help. “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be particularly helpful for pain that is related to prostaglandins, as these medications block them,” says Dr. Rodgers. Common NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen, which you can get over the counter without a prescription. If these don’t help, Dr. Rogers adds, “If it is very bothersome, you can start birth control pills, which stop ovulation from happening.”  

    When to consult a doctor

    Ovulation bloating doesn’t usually need any medical treatment. But, as Dr. Rodgers says, “If it is preventing you from doing your usual activities, waking you out of your sleep, or preventing you from being able to have sex … [then] these are reasons to see your doctor.” They’ll be able to talk through your symptoms, run some tests if necessary, and help you come up with a treatment plan.

    More FAQs

    Why do I feel awful during ovulation?

    Beyond bloating, you might also experience pelvic or abdominal pain during ovulation, which might not leave you feeling your best. The good news is that ovulation pain usually only lasts for a couple of hours, although it can go on for up to two days. If you’re finding the symptoms tough to manage, reach out to your health care provider to discuss potential treatment options that could help.

    Can you be tired when ovulating?

    You’re actually more likely to have higher energy levels during ovulation, thanks to the increase in estrogen that occurs at this time. However, everyone is different. So if you feel more tired than usual around the time of ovulation, don’t panic; this could be normal for you.

    What color is ovulation discharge?

    Ovulation discharge is often compared to raw egg whites, which means it’s clear, slippery, and stretchy. This is to help make it easier for sperm to meet your egg once it’s been released. Then, after ovulation, you may notice that your discharge becomes drier again.

    References

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    “Bloating.” NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/bloating/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

    Brott, Nathan R., and Jacqueline K. Le. “Mittelschmerz.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 1 May 2023, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549822/.

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    “Cervix.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23279-cervix. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

    “Dysmenorrhea: Painful Periods.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dec. 2020, www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/dysmenorrhea-painful-periods

    Grieger, Jessica A., and Robert J. Norman. “Menstrual Cycle Length and Patterns in a Global Cohort of Women Using a Mobile Phone App: Retrospective Cohort Study.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 22, no. 6, June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7381001/.

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    Parenteau-Carreau, S., and C. Infante-Rivard. “Self-Palpation to Assess Cervical Changes in Relation to Mucus and Temperature.” International Journal of Fertility, vol. 33, 1988, pp. 10–16, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2902020/.

    “Physical Activity and Your Menstrual Cycle.” Office on Women’s Health, 16 Feb. 2021, www.womenshealth.gov/getting-active/physical-activity-menstrual-cycle

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    History of updates

    Current version (19 December 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Boyle, Obstetrician and gynecologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts, US
    Written by Kate Hollowood

    Published (23 November 2018)

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