- Do non-menstrual cramps indicate pregnancy?
- Reasons why you have cramps, but no period
- Tips to relieve cramping pain when not on periods
- Frequently asked questions
Are you experiencing uncomfortable pelvic pain and cramping even as you missed your period? Cramping is usually an indicator of the menstrual cycle, but it may not always be the case. Some not-so-evident reasons that prevent your period may also cause cramping.
Do Non-Menstrual Cramps Indicate Pregnancy?
The onset of pregnancy could be one of the reasons for cramping but it need not be the only reason. You may experience mild cramps when the baby implants in the uterus around the fourth week of pregnancy (the time you would get your period). Therefore, you can take a home pregnancy test when you have cramps without your period. If the test results are negative, you should see your health care provider for a diagnosis (1).
Reasons Why You Have Cramps, But No Period
Besides pregnancy, there are several other causes of cramping. Here are some of them.
[ Read: Signs And Symptoms Of Pregnancy ]
Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg, which usually happens around the 10th to the 14th day of the menstrual cycle. The lower abdominal pain during ovulation is medically termed as Mittelschmerz.
In this case, you will experience a sharp, or sometimes a dull pain on one side of the lower belly. It lasts between a few minutes and a couple of hours. The pain depends on which ovary releases the egg and might strike at the same place or switch sides each month (2).
2. Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
It is an autoimmune condition affecting different parts of the gut, causing chronic swelling and irritation. It can be ulcerative colitis that infects only the colon (large intestine), or Crohn’s that affects any part of the gut (which includes your mouth too).
You experience severe cramping pain and inflammation in the abdomen. It usually occurs after eating certain foods (such as spices, caffeine, and milk), but may also occur without any cause (3).
3. Ruptured ovarian cyst
A cyst is a sac-like fluid that forms on your ovaries. Usually, the follicular cyst breaks to release the egg, which dissipates on its own during periods. In some cases, it does not dissolve and ends up as an enlarged ovarian cyst that bursts inside.
Though a ruptured cyst does not always cause pain, it sometimes leads to sharp and sudden pain on the lower abdomen. It also depends on which ovary has the condition (4).
4. Ectopic pregnancy
Here the baby grows outside the uterus, in one of the fallopian tubes. It is lethal to the mother, and will not yield in a live birth. You will experience mild cramping followed by a sharp and stabbing pain on one side of the abdomen. The pain will become intense and can travel to the lower back and shoulder as well (5).
It is the loss of the unborn baby within the 20th week of pregnancy. Most miscarriages happen before the 12th week and are mainly due to chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. You will experience period-like cramping that turns severe (6).
[ Read: Pregnancy Symptoms Before Missed Period ]
6. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
The bacterial infection spreads through sex and affects the reproductive organs including the womb, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and vagina. You may experience mild cramping on both the sides of the lower abdomen and lower back, which can manifest any time. The pain may become intense and constant in severe cases (7).
It is a chronic condition where the endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus instead of inside. You may experience regular menstrual-like cramps that may develop any time of the month. These cramps develop in different parts of the abdomen, sometimes radiating to the legs or back. There might be severe pain during bowel movements too (8).
8. Pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
The condition involves severe spasms in the muscles supporting the womb, vagina, bladder, and rectum. It may be a result of physical exercises, prior orthopedic injuries, sex, and chronic constipation. You will experience severe cramps in the lower abdomen, which is mostly associated with pain in the back and the groin (9).
9. Irritable bowel syndrome
It is a functional gastrointestinal disorder associated with cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain for at least three months. You will feel a sudden flash of cramps in your abdomen that might improve after a bowel movement. The pain worsens during your menstrual period (10).
10. Interstitial cysts
This condition affects your bladder, and is also called painful bladder syndrome. Though the exact cause is unknown, it is known to occur due to a defect in the epithelial tissue of the bladder. You will experience lower abdominal cramps along with pain and tenderness in the genitals. It gets severe when the bladder gets full, or during the period (11).
It is an inflammatory condition of the vestigial organ called appendix, a pouch protruding from your large intestine. Cramps originate in the navel and move into the lower right side of the belly. They worsen as you move, cough, sneeze and also jolt you out of deep sleep (12).
12. Ovarian cancer
Though rare, this could be one of the reasons for cramps without periods. It begins in the ovaries that are responsible for producing eggs for fertilization. There is a vague pain, which you might take for gas or constipation. The pressure and pain in the lower abdomen will not subside easily (13).
Perimenopause is a transition from reproductive state to menopause, when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and you can no longer have biological children.
Perimenopause can begin in women aged between 35 and 59. Cramps during this period are similar to menstrual cramps and may become severe due to fluctuations in hormones (14).
14. Premenstrual syndrome
Most women suffer from PMS around seven to 14 days before they get their periods. It is usually caused by a combination of physiological and psychological factors and leaves you irritable with specific food cravings.
You experience cramps in the lower abdomen, usually before the period every month (15).
Stress-inducing events such as exams, trauma, or even breakups would make periods go awry. Also, improper sleep, headaches, over thinking, anxiety or depression could also lead to stress.
You will experience cramps in the abdominal area and also in the thigh, foot, and calf regions (16).
Tips To Relieve Cramping Pain When Not On Periods
The following measures could help alleviate the pain associated with cramps that are not due to periods or pregnancy.
- Find a comfy couch or bed to lie down in a position you feel most comfortable.
- Apply heat compresses on the area where you feel severe cramping.
- Take a warm water bath to relax the muscles and remove stress.
- Consider walking in your garden or neighborhood park, and it can help you relax and be comfortable.
- Consume a warm cup of water with lemon, or make some herbal tea for a soothing effect.
- Rubbing the affected area gently cal also help relieve the pain.
You might try the above measures to ease the cramps. If they don’t help, it is time to check with your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between pregnancy cramping and menstrual cramping?
The nature and intensity of cramping during pregnancy and menstrual period are similar, but their timing is different.
Menstrual cramping, also referred to as primary dysmenorrheal, occurs a week or two before your period, and decreases as your period starts. These cramps disappear by the end of the period (17).
Pregnancy cramping will initially develop during the implantation period, and lasts for weeks to months during pregnancy. It occurs on and off (18).
2. What does it mean if I experience cramping ten days before my period?
Cramps around ten days before your period could be because of ovulation when the ovaries produce eggs. Another reason could be implantation when the egg and sperm fertilize and the embryo attaches to the uterine lining, indicating pregnancy.
3. Can the early days of pregnancy have period-like cramps?
During the early days of pregnancy, you will experience mild tummy cramps that you usually feel during your period. They occur due to the physical changes your body undergoes to accommodate the growing baby.
A missed period can be a source of joy for some women. But for others, it can be scary. If you are experiencing period like cramps with no period bleeding, head to a drugstore and buy a home pregnancy test. If your test comes back negative, it may be time to book a doctor’s appointment.
Make sure you note down how the cramps feel, what time of the month you get them and how long they last. This would help your healthcare provider analyze the right cause, and best treat your condition.
[ Read: Pregnancy Symptoms After A Missed Period ]
Have tips on how to manage cramps while not on your period? Share them in the comments section below.
2. Mittelschmerz (Painful Ovulation); SexInfo Online; University of California (2018)
3. Inflammatory bowel disease; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation
4. Treating a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst; UC San Diego Health (2018)
5. Complications of Pregnancy; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (2018)
6. K.J. Sapra et al.; Signs and symptoms associated with early pregnancy loss: findings from a population-based preconception cohort; Hum Reprod (2016)
7. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease; Chicana and Chicano Studies (2005)
8. Endometriosis; Rush University Medical Center
9. Stephanie S. Faubion et al.; Recognition and Management of Non-relaxing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction; Mayo Clin Proc (2012)
10. Irritable bowel syndrome; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018)
11. Diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis; Harvard Health Publishing (2018)
12. Appendectomy; University of Rochester Medical Center (2018)
13. Ovarian Cancer Report; Georgia Department of Community Health
14. What Is Menopause; National Institutes of Health (2017)
15. Premenstrual Syndrome; Brown University Health Services (2013)
16. Prior stress could worsen premenstrual symptoms, NIH study finds; National Institutes of Health (2010)
17. Menstrual Cramps; The University Of Texas At Austin University Health Services (2018)
18. Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms and Health; Regis College, Massachusetts
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