Cramps are never nice, but those that crop up just before your period or during your period are absolutely normal. They’re caused when prostaglandin, a hormone-like compound, contracts the muscles of the uterus to discard an unfertilized egg along with the uterus lining. However, what if you have cramps but no period? The possible reasons are many, ranging from ovulation and implantation to appendicitis and cancer.
13 Possible Reasons For Having Cramps But No Period
Menstrual cramps are expected before you start your period. When the cramps show up as anticipated but your period does not, you may feel thrown off guard. If such is the case, here are some reasons why you may be cramping:
1. Early Pregnancy
The first possibility that strikes most when they cramp without any sign of period is pregnancy. Often, this is the earliest indication of pregnancy.1
Cramping occurs when the fetus attaches itself to your womb. This is known as implantation pain. It occurs around a week before you’d expect your period to start and is like a dull period pain in your lower abdomen.
It is easy to overlook implantation pain as it does not last very long. To be certain, calculate your ovulation day and recall whether you had sex within 4 days before the day of ovulation, on the day of ovulation, and a day after.
As your pregnancy progresses and your womb stretches and thickens to accommodate the growing fetus, you may experience cramping. This usually occurs during the first trimester, setting in around the 5th or 6th week of pregnancy. If you’re still not aware of your pregnancy, this might give you some clue.
Early pregnancy pain may be a period-type pain or a stitch-like or stabbing pain on one or both sides of your abdomen.2 Spotting is also evident in some cases.
One-sided mild cramps close to your expected period date may be caused by delayed ovulation.
Often, cramps without period is a lot less serious than pregnancy. Some women experience cramping on one side of their lower abdomen before, during, or after an egg is released from their ovary. The process is known as ovulation and ovulation pain is called Mittelschmerz.3
Ovulation pain is usually not a cause for concern – unless, of course, it is severe (which is very rare). The side of the pain depends on the ovary which releases the egg and can, thus, change from one month to the other.
The intensity of cramping differs from person to person. It can be dull or sharp. Cramps usually last from a few minutes to a few hours but can persist up to 24–48 hours. In an average 28-day menstrual cycle, cramping can occur 10–14 days before the start of the period.
Because cramps and bleeding caused due to a miscarriage are often difficult to distinguish from regular early pregnancy cramps and spotting, let your doctor know about it at the earliest.
The loss of an unborn baby before the 20th week of pregnancy is called a miscarriage. Abdominal pain or cramping is one sign of it.
The cramps may begin as mild period-like pain, with heaviness in the thighs and lower abdomen, and escalate into severe cramps and bleeding.4 While vaginal bleeding is a sign of miscarriage, if the bleeding is not heavy, it’s easy to mistake it as regular early pregnancy spotting.
It is important to know that mild or period-like pain is normal during pregnancy, but if the pain persists or gets severe with time, inform your doctor.
Severe menstrual cramps that worsen over time, delayed and heavy periods, and painful sex are all caused by endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a condition where the endometrium or the tissue lining the inside of the uterus grows outside. The tissues usually grow in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the outer surface of the uterus, and the tissues supporting the uterus.
Female hormones are unable to recognize that these tissues are not in the uterus and treat them as regular uterine tissues. This results in painful cramps.5
Endometrial cramps can occur at any time of the month, as and when the tissues grow. They may delay your periods, increasing your blood flow and discomfort during shark week. Cramps can be felt in the lower abdomen, lower back, and pelvic areas. Endometriosis is one of the reasons for infertility.
[Also Read: Causes Of Endometriosis and Risk Factors]
Those in their 30s or 40s with irregular periods but regular menstrual cramps, even in the months of absent periods, may be in their perimenopause phase.
Menopause is the permanent cessation of the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life, indicating the end of her fertility phase. It usually sets in between the ages 40 and 51.
In the phase leading up to menopause, called the perimenopause phase, many women experience irregular periods and sometimes even miss their periods for a couple of months. In the months that they do not have their period, some women continue to have menstrual cramps during the time their periods would normally occur.6
Loss of libido, lack of sleep, night sweats, and weight gain often come with the cramps.
[Also Read: Essential Oils For Menopause]
6. Stenosis Of The Uterine Cervix
If you have had surgery done on the cervix or have experienced cervical trauma, your painful cramps sans period could indicate stenosis of the uterine cervix.7
In this condition, the opening of the uterus (cervix) narrows to the extent that normal menstrual bleeding is obstructed. This leads to severe cramping without the occurrence of periods. In some instances, periods may be regular but with lesser bleeding and painful cramps.
7. Ovarian Cysts
Sudden, severe abdominal pain may be triggered by a ruptured ovarian cyst and requires immediate medical help.
Fluid-filled sacs that develop in the ovaries are called ovarian cysts. These sacs can form in two cases:
- When the egg is not released from the follicle
- When the follicle doesn’t dissolve after the egg is released
Ovarian cysts can cause a sharp pain just below the belly button, on the side of the ovary which has a cyst and/or a dull ache in the lower back and thighs. If the cysts twist the ovary, the pain may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.8 If they
8. Ovarian Cancer
Check for a palpable lump in your pelvic and abdominal area to locate an ovarian tumor.
Ovarian cancer can cause abdominal or pelvic cramping along with pain in the legs and lower back.9 It might be mild at the beginning but tends to intensify with time, mimicking constipation or gas.
In some cases, there might be mild spotting as well, and it can happen at any time of the month. There is persistent pressure on your lower abdomen, which doesn’t subside. Accompanying symptoms include swelling of the belly, constipation, feeling full with smaller meals, and frequent urination.
[Also Read: Symptoms Of Ovarian Cancer]
9. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may get cramps any time of the month. This intestinal disorder causes pain and bloating in the stomach along with constipation and/or diarrhea for at least 3 months.10
You would get a sharp pain in the abdomen every time you have to defecate or whenever you are constipated. The cramps may reduce after the passage of stool but may worsen during menstruation.
10. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition where a part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes inflamed. Two common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While Crohn’s disease may affect any part of the GI tract, ulcerative colitis affects only the large intestines.11
Cramps may arise in the lower left, lower right, or middle of the abdomen depending on the type of IBD.
11. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
A PID infection’s most prominent symptom is lower abdominal cramps.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that can be contracted through sexual intercourse.It may even be caused by normal bacteria thriving in the vagina. It affects the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix.
Cramping in the lower abdomen is the most common sign of PID. Cramps may appear at any time of the month, not just around your regular period week.12 Painful sex and painful urination are other tell-tale signs.
Untreated PID can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and pelvic pain that does not go away.
A number of conditions cause cramps, not just appendicitis. Seek prompt medical attention if the pain becomes constant and/or severe.
This is one of the more well-known suspects of abdominal cramps. The appendix is a small organ present in the lower right abdomen, at the junction of the small and large intestines. Inflammation of this vestigial organ is called appendicitis.
The cramps usually originate around your belly button and come and go.13 Within hours, the pain radiates toward the lower right abdomen and becomes more constant. The pain can quickly intensify and become unbearable, calling for immediate medical attention.
13. Autoimmune Oophoritis
Autoimmune oophoritis is a rare condition where the body’s immune system attacks the ovaries, misidentifying them as foreign bodies. This makes the ovaries non-functional, causing them to harden and shrink. The levels of female hormones produced by the ovaries, thus, take a hit. This results in abdominal cramping and irregular or absent periods.14 A person may also become infertile because of this condition.
Besides the reasons mentioned, stress, a sedentary lifestyle, and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia can also cause cramps without periods showing up.
When To See A Doctor
- Seek medical help immediately if the cramps become severe or constant, despite the time of the month.
- If your cramps keep cropping up despite irregular or absent periods and you are not pregnant, let your doctor know about it.
- If you are pregnant, watch out for cramps that occur only on one side and those that accompany bleeding or spotting. Speak to your doctor when it happens.
Tips To Relieve Cramps
For mild abdominal and pelvic cramps that come and go, here are a few temporary relief measures you can try:
- Place a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the affected area for some time.
- Lie down till the pain subsides.
- Drink a warm beverage like some warm milk or green tea.
- Soak yourself and relax for a while in a tub of hot water.
|↑1||Problems in Early Pregnancy. National Health Services.|
|↑2||Bleeding And/Or Pain In Early Pregnancy. National Health Services.|
|↑3||Mittelschmerz. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Miscarriage. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Endometriosis. National Health Services.|
|↑6||Perimenopause. The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research.|
|↑7||Mathew, Mariam, and Anita Krishna Mohan. “Recurrent cervical stenosis-a troublesome clinical entity.” Oman Med J 23, no. 3 (2008): 195-196.|
|↑8||Ovarian cysts. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑9||Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Canada Cancer Society.|
|↑10||Irritable Bowel Syndrome. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑11||Inflammatory bowel disease. National Health Services.|
|↑12||Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|
|↑13||Appendicitis – Symptoms. National Health Services.|
|↑14||Autoimmune oophoritis. National Institutes of Health.|