Unraveling the Link Between Menstrual Cramps and Ovulation: Insights from a Year-Long Study
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Unraveling the Link Between Menstrual Cramps and Ovulation: Insights from a Year-Long Study

Menstrual cramps affect a significant portion of women worldwide, often impacting their daily activities and quality of life. While it's commonly believed that these cramps occur exclusively during ovulatory cycles, a recent one-year observational cohort study challenges this notion and provides new insights into the relationship between menstrual cramps, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

Study Overview

Conducted by researchers Sewon Bann, Azita Goshtasebi, Sonia Shirin, and Jerilynn C. Prior, the study focused on healthy, normally ovulating women aged 21 to 41. Over the course of a year, 53 participants tracked their menstrual cramps using daily records in the Menstrual Cycle Diary©. The researchers utilized the Quantitative Basal Temperature© (QBT) analysis to validate ovulation and luteal phase lengths.

Key Findings

The study revealed several intriguing results:

  • Cramp Intensity and Ovulation: Contrary to common beliefs, the study found no significant difference in cramp scores between ovulatory and anovulatory cycles. This suggests that the presence of ovulation does not directly correlate with the occurrence or intensity of menstrual cramps.
  • Cramp Duration: On average, cramps lasted about 2.2 days per cycle, with a median intensity level of 1.5 on a scale of 0 to 4.
  • Impact of Luteal Phase Length: Interestingly, cramp intensity was slightly higher in normal-length cycles that experienced subclinical ovulatory disturbances compared to fully ovulatory cycles. This implies that even subtle variations in the menstrual cycle can influence cramp severity.

Additional Findings

What Affects Menstrual Cramps?

Age: A Decrease in Cramp Intensity Over Time

The study observed that as women age, the intensity of menstrual cramps tends to decrease. This could be due to hormonal adjustments over time or the body's adaptation to managing pain. Understanding this trend can help younger women anticipate changes in their menstrual experience as they grow older and explore targeted pain management strategies.

Physical Activity: No Direct Link to Cramp Intensity

Contrary to common advice that suggests physical activity can alleviate menstrual cramps, the study found no clear association between a woman's level of physical activity and the intensity of her cramps. This finding challenges the notion that exercise is a universal remedy for menstrual discomfort, highlighting that the effectiveness of physical activity may vary from person to person.

Cycle Length: No Impact on Cramp Severity

Interestingly, the study also revealed that the length of the menstrual cycle does not significantly affect the intensity of cramps. This suggests that other factors, possibly hormonal balances or individual health conditions, play a more crucial role in determining the severity of menstrual cramps rather than the cycle length itself.

Implications of the Study

These findings are significant as they suggest that menstrual cramps might be influenced by factors beyond just the presence or absence of ovulation, such as hormonal fluctuations within the menstrual cycle. The study also highlights the complexity of menstrual health and challenges existing assumptions about the causes of menstrual discomfort.


This comprehensive year-long study sheds light on the intricate dynamics between menstrual cramps, ovulation, and luteal phase characteristics in healthy women. By challenging long-held beliefs about menstrual cramps, the study opens up new avenues for research and potential therapies aimed at alleviating menstrual discomfort more effectively.

In conclusion, the relationship between menstrual cramps and ovulation is more complex than previously thought, offering hope for more targeted and effective management strategies in the future.

  • Bann, S., Goshtasebi, A., Shirin, S. et al. A one-year observational cohort study of menstrual cramps and ovulation in healthy, normally ovulating women. Sci Rep 12, 4738 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-08658-3
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  • Morrow, C. & Naumburg, E. H. Dysmenorrhea. Prim. Care Clin. Off. Pract. 36, 19–32 (2009).
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  • Ju, H., Jones, M. & Mishra, G. The prevalence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea. Epidemiol. Rev. 36, 104–113 (2014).
  • Prior, J. C. Exercise-associated menstrual disturbances. In Reproductive Endocrinology, Surgery and Technology (eds Adashi, E. Y. et al.) 1077–1091 (Raven Press, 1996).
1.Study Overview
2.Key Findings
3.Additional Findings
4.Implications of the Study