Major Causes of Ovary Pain

Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Woman experiencing ovary pain

Ovary pain can be a one-time incident or a chronic problem that indicates something more serious. Women who are already pregnant and those who are trying to conceive should discuss any pain with their doctor so they can get the best treatment.

Preconception Pains

Schedule a preconception check up with your doctor before you get pregnant. During this visit, bring up any pains you are having, especially those in your lower abdomen and pelvic region.

Ovulation and Menstruation

Women can experience a sharp pain on one side of their ovaries during ovulation, called mittelschmertz. This pain is often short lived and will occur mid-cycle. It usually requires no medical intervention, although some women will take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

A more serious form of ovary pain is known as dysmenorrhea. It occurs during menstruation and may require a prescription pain reliever or hormones to help control the problem. This can be a sharp pain or a dull ache, but either way, you should consult a doctor about any concerns you may have.


Pain in the pelvic area that occurs suddenly may be the sign of an infection. Bacteria can cause problems within reproductive organs, just as they do throughout the entire body. An infection in an area near the ovaries may also cause them to be painful. Sometimes, a previous STD, like chlamydia, can cause problems like the onset of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). This infection can present itself as pain in the abdominal region and result in sores to the ovaries. Left untreated, PID can lead to infertility.

Ovarian Cysts and Pain

Ovarian cysts are common in women who are of childbearing age. Cysts are classified into different groups, depending on their cause. The Office on Women's Health identifies five types of ovarian cysts:

  • Functional cysts - These occur naturally during menstruation cycles. Though they may cause pain, they usually go away within a few months. Consistent problems may require taking hormonal birth control for prevention.
  • Endometriosis - Women who have endometriosis will have cysts that cause pain and potential infertility.
  • Cystadenomas - These are cysts that have developed from the outer cells of the ovary that can be filled with fluids and can become painfully large.
  • Dermoid cysts - Cells in the ovary can develop tissues that mimic a human form, such as hair and teeth.
  • Polycystic ovarian cysts - These cysts form on top of one another when follicles do not break open to release eggs. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can interfere with daily life and future fertility.

If you have concerns about ovarian cysts, you should speak to your doctor to learn more and possibly get surgery to remove the cysts. Your doctor will also help you rule out cancerous tumors. Put any plans for getting pregnant on hold until you know you are cancer-free.

Ovary Pain in Pregnancy

Women who are already pregnant often experience aches and pains they have never felt before, sometimes in the region of their ovaries. The pain can be the result of a previously undiagnosed problem, like PCOS, or something more serious.

Early Pregnancy

Report any pain in the lower abdominals, pelvic region, ovaries, or vaginal area to a physician immediately. Women who know they are pregnant and experience ovary pain in the first trimester should call their doctor to rule out any of these potential problems:

Later Pregnancy

Always talk to your doctor about abdominal pain in later pregnancy as well. Pain near the ovaries may be due to the following:

  • Later on in pregnancy, some pelvic pain can be attributed to round ligament pain that affects the whole uterine area. These growing pains are due to the stretching and growth of the uterus.
  • Women who have had a prior c-section may have developed adhesions near their scar tissue. As their baby grows, this might cause abdominal pains that could be mistaken for ovary pains.

Alternative Pain Causes

Although you may be convinced that what you are feeling is ovary pain, it could be something else entirely. It can be easy to confuse pain in your reproductive organs with other abdominal and pelvic pains, especially if you are worried about your ability to conceive or a growing baby.

Some pain causes that can be mistaken for ovary pain include the following:

  • Constipation
  • Appendicitis
  • Bladder infection/urinary tract infection
  • Kidney stones
  • Gall bladder infection/disease

Whether you are trying to prevent pregnancy, trying to conceive, or are currently pregnant, always discuss ovary pain and other health issues with your physician so you can be treated properly.

Additional Resources

For more information on women's health issues and pain, visit the following sites:

Understanding Your Pain

If you are concerned that you are having ovarian pain and cannot pinpoint the source, speak to your doctor right away. He or she may be able to help you better understand what it is you are feeling and help you find relief if necessary.

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Major Causes of Ovary Pain