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    Pelvic Pain: What Does It Signal?

    Updated 10 November 2021 |
    Published 23 December 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Olga Adereyko, MD, Primary Care Physician, General Practitioner, Medical Consultant
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Pelvic pain is a pretty common occurrence. However, if you experience pain regularly or have any additional symptoms, read on to learn about potential causes, available treatment options, and when to see your health care provider.

    Potential causes of pelvic pain

    Although many people experience cramps once in a while — especially during their periods — it can also be a sign of an underlying condition.

    Mittelschmerz

    This condition, which is derived from the German word for “middle pain,” occurs when an egg is released from an ovary into a uterine tube.

    If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why do I have pain in my left ovary?” Mittelschmerz could be the answer. It can cause pain in the right or left side of your lower abdomen, depending on which ovary releases the egg. This lower abdominal pain is usually dull and may feel like a cramp, but it can also be more intense. It lasts between a few minutes and a few hours, but it may continue for as long as a day or two. Sometimes it’s accompanied by mild vaginal discharge or spotting. The pain may alternate sides from cycle to cycle, switching from right side to left side, or it may stay on the same side for several cycles in a row. It may happen every time you ovulate or only periodically.

    While the exact cause of Mittelschmerz is unknown, doctors have several theories about it. It’s believed to be caused by the normal enlargement of the egg in the ovary just before ovulation. The pain could also be caused by the normal bleeding that comes with ovulation.

    If you find that pain is happening on or close to the middle day of your menstrual cycle, it most likely is Mittelschmerz. 

    Ovarian cysts

    While they aren’t generally cause for alarm, ovarian cysts can cause pelvic pain. Located on the surface of the ovary, ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can cause pain. The discomfort, which may be stronger during sex or your period, can also radiate to the lower back and thighs.

    Although less frequent, other symptoms may present with ovarian cysts. These include the need to urinate frequently, painful bowel movements, nausea, and vomiting. At the same time, some ovarian cysts don’t cause any pain at all, so they can go unnoticed for quite a while. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your health care provider (OB-GYN or family physician), who can perform an examination and order blood work or an ultrasound to determine a diagnosis.