What is your body telling you?

One day a good friend and colleague walked me out to the parking area next to the building where we both worked. It was across the street from Grady Memorial Hospital where I have worked since 1963 save for two years of active duty in the Public Health Service and one year at the University of California in Berkeley.

I was seated in the driver’s seat and had rolled down the window.  Our conversation went on for about five minutes. My friend was standing right next to the open window.

Then without raising her voice and in the exactly the same matter of fact tone in which she had been speaking, she said “Oh, Bob, I just ovulated in my right ovary.”

I roared! She told me that occasionally she could feel a slight twinge of pain as she ovulated.  This is what had happened that afternoon.  About 15% of women occasionally do feel something in the pelvic area as ovulation happens.  It can happen on the right or the left as ovulation can occur in either ovary.  When there is any discomfort from rupture of an egg out of the ovary it usually happens about 2 weeks after the first day of the previous menstrual period. This month my friend’s ovulation happened in the right ovary. 

Sometimes the pain of ovulation is quite severe (and must be distinguished from pain associated with pain from appendicitis and other causes). In the vast majority of women ovulation causes no symptoms at all.

Since my friend and I were working in the area of fertility control a recurrent symptom right at the time of ovulation, we realized, could have interesting implications for a woman both in terms of trying to become pregnant and trying to avoid pregnancy.

Well, those are probably more details about ovulation than you expected to hear about from reading today’s issue of the Clayton Tribune!

Next month when I am lecturing to 100 students at a women’s health course at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I will have to tell them of this happening some 30 years ago and go into more details about the implications of that little moment of slight pain in the 15% of them who have experienced it.

So what does this moment of my life some 40 years ago possibly mean to the average reader of this paper? It reminds us that our bodies are speaking to us all the time and that if we are aware and attentive we can pick up signals that could be helpful to us.

Each of us is the captain of his or her own health team.  And it is my strong belief that each of us must be listening and looking for clues as to how our bodies are functioning.  This means looking closely at our habits as well as at the ways our bodies are responding to life and to our habits.

The challenge is to be interested and involved detectives without becoming paranoid or overly self-absorbed. 

Here a suggestion: take a few very, very deep breaths right now. It feels good, doesn’t it?  Now if you haven’t felt this good feeling recently take a number of deep breaths in the day ahead. Deep breathing is such a stress reducer and nothing is better for our health than stress reduction!

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia