Dec 16 2011

Bury the Buzzword: Mittelschmerz

The medical term mittelschmerz (pronounced mittelschmerts) is one of those classic buzzwords, in that knowing the word tells you nothing about its meaning. However, if you know German you could get a clue as to what the word means, because it literally translates to “middle pain.”

Interestingly, the “middle” part of the translation does not refer to an anatomical location, but to the middle part of a woman’s menstrual cycle when ovulation takes place. The “pain” part of the translation refers to unilateral, lower abdominal pain that accompanies ovulation.

The pain may be due to tension on the ovaries or inflammation of the abdominal wall caused by ovulation. Some women feel cramping pain, while others may have sharp pain in one of the lower abdominal quadrants. The pain does not always have to be located on the same side, and can also alternate sides throughout the day. The pain is usually mild and subsides after a few minutes or hours, but can last up to 1-2 days.

Mittelschmerz is not considered worrisome, and can be treated with pain medicine or oral contraceptive pills. A physician should be notified if any bleeding occurs, if the pain begins to bother the patient, or if the pain starts to occur outside of the couple days surrounding day 14 of the menstrual cycle.

Mittelschmerz is an important term to understand the meaning of. You will run into it on your OB/GYN rotations, and may encounter it on the boards as well. Now you will have a great understanding of this interesting German word and how we apply it to medicine.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Mittelschmerz.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 June 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2011. <>.
Vorvick, Linda J., Susan Storck, and David Zieve. “Mittelschmerz.” PubMed Health, 2 June 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2011. <>.

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