How odd! It’s not that time of the month yet but it seems that you are already sensing that all too familiar feeling of period cramps. For some, perhaps, this discomfort can be more than just an inconvenience but rather a pain that gets in the way of your regular activities.
Periods are not the only cause for cramps, however. There are so many other possible reasons for you to have cramps without having a period, some of which are more concerning than others. We have listed some of these causes of cramps to help you become aware of these conditions.
Regular Menstrual Cramps
Before we jump right into the list, let us first talk about regular menstrual cramps to help differentiate it with other cramps right away. Regular menstrual cramps are caused by the increase of prostaglandins, which makes the uterine muscle to contract. This feels similar to labor contractions, which usually begins 24-48 hours before you get your period and ends when your menstruation begins.
Menstrual cramps can vary from mild to severe. It also usually comes with other conditions caused by hormonal changes, such as acne, bloating, mood swings, pain in the lower stomach or lower back, and nausea. Some even experience LBM and constipation.
Here are other reasons for you to get cramps even though you are not on your period:
During the first trimester of pregnancy, a woman’s body adjusts to the growth of the fetus. Hence, if you are pregnant, you might experience cramps as your womb accommodates your baby. This pain may be described as stitch-like or stabbing. Cramps, however, are not a reliable indicator of pregnancy.
Other pregnancy indicators are morning sickness, fatigue, skipped periods, tender or sore breasts, darkening areolas, mood swings, food aversions or cravings, mood swings, backaches, headaches, and the need to use the bathroom frequently.
2. Implantation Pain
In continuity with the pregnancy line of thought, another possible reason for getting cramps is implantation pain. Implantation happens to a pregnant woman when the embryo attaches itself to the uterine walls. This happens around the fourth week of pregnancy just when you are expecting your period. Implantation pain is described as a dull pain that lasts 1-3 days. If you have implantation pain, you might also experience spottings.
Not many women experience actual pain when they ovulate. This condition is more technically known as mittelschmerz, which literally translates to middle pain. One of your ovaries releases an egg cell in the middle of your hormonal cycle, from days 10-14. Some women may feel a sharp and sudden or a dull cramp on one side of the lower belly as they ovulate.
4. Ovarian Cyst
There are many kinds of ovarian cysts but one, in particular, is called a follicle cyst. It forms inside a woman’s ovaries during their hormonal cycle and breaks to release the egg. This dissolves later and most of the time, it does not cause pain. However, if you do feel this pain, it is described as a sudden and sharp pain that is more painful than a regular menstrual cramp. This pain can be localized to either side of your lower stomach below the belly button. You might also experience spottings, a pressure in our thighs and lower back.
5. Delayed Period
Perhaps your period is simply delayed. There are many possible triggers for a hormonal change that leads to a change in your cycle such as stress, anxiety, or birth control methods. You might also be experiencing irregular periods, which is why you are having cramps without periods. Moreover, you may be simply miscalculating your period, which is not uncommon among many women. This pain may be described as a pinch, tinge, or a sharp pain on one side of your lower stomach that can last from a few minutes to several hours.
Another reason for having cramps with no period is that your body might be undergoing hormonal changes as you are led to the menopausal stage. Menopause happens as a woman’s reproductivity ends, and comes as a woman experiences no period for a year. Perimenopause is a challenging time for a woman as her body’s hormonal levels are changing. Other signs are hot flashes, missed or irregular periods, and difficulty in sleeping. These signs will go away as your body’s hormonal levels stay constant once again.
7. Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies are very rare and it happens to only 1-2% of all pregnancies. This happens when an embryo grows outside the womb instead of inside of it, like in one of a woman’s fallopian tubes. This is a very serious life-threatening situation. Cramps experienced in ectopic pregnancies is described as progressing from a mild pain to a sudden, stabbing pain on one side of the lower belly. This intense pain may also be felt in the lower back and shoulders. Ectopic pregnancies may also come with bleeding.
Miscarriage happens to a pregnant woman when she loses her baby before the 20th week of conception. This pain is described as more intense than period pains that get increasingly painful as it progresses. A woman experiencing a miscarriage would also experience bleeding or spottings.
9. Ovarian Torsion
Ovarian torsions rarely happen and it comprises only about 3% of all gynecological conditions. This the twisting of the fallopian tube that can affect blood flow and fertility. Ovarian torsions come with a sudden, severe abdominal pain. A ruptured ovarian cyst might trigger this condition but in general, this is caused by a woman’s diet or habits.
10. Ovarian Cancer
Yes, ovarian cancer may come with cramps, but do not immediately give a self-diagnosis of cancer when you experience one without cramps. It is not easy to detect ovarian cancer, and the pain you feel with it is not distinct and is usually thought of as just gas or constipation. However, the difference is the pain is not eased.
Other signs of ovarian cancer is a bloating belly, always feeling that you have to pee, loss of appetite or feeling full too quickly, and spottings. Pains that come with ovarian cancer gets more severe as it progresses and may also be felt in the pelvic area as well as in the legs and back.
Anovulation happens when a woman’s body fails to release an egg cell at the time that she has to ovulate. This normally happens to women who are either beginning or ending their reproductive years. Stress, anxiety, bad eating habits, extreme exercising, and being overweight may also cause a hormonal imbalance leading to anovulation.
Endometriosis happens when tissues that are similar to the womb’s lining spreads and attaches to other internal organs. These tissues are also sensitive to your hormonal cycle so it would also contract and swell around the same time you experience your menstrual cramps. This pain, however, may be experienced days or weeks before a person who suffers have their PMS, which means they have few pain-free days.
Pains felt by those who suffer endometriosis can be felt in the lower back and lower stomach.
13. Hormonal Birth Control
Since your periods are heavily dependent on the hormonal cycle, hormonal birth control pills naturally interfere with this process. If you are taking birth control pills, you may experience a really light flow or spotting, irregular periods, or you may skip periods altogether.
14. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a bacterial infection that affects the fallopian tubes, womb, ovaries, vagina, and cervix. PID is most commonly spread by sex. Cramps experienced by people who suffer PID describe it as pain on both side of the lower belly and at the back, regardless of whether it is around that time of the month. Other symptoms of PID include an abnormal vaginal discharge, spottings, pain during sex or urination, heavier and longer periods, and bleeding even between periods. PID may cause infertility or complications to pregnancy.
15. Pelvic-Floor Muscle Dysfunction
Pelvic-Floor Muscle Dysfunction is described as a loss of control of muscles in the pelvic region, which includes the bladder, rectum, and the uterus. It may be caused by childbirth, trauma, injury, or E.coli, Staphylococcus. This causes a person to contract these muscles instead of relaxing them, according to Healthline.
Pain experienced by those who suffer Pelvic-Floor Muscle Dysfunction is described as a severe cramp-like pain in the lower belly, groin, and back. One may also experience pain during sex or urination. severe spasms in muscles that support bladder, womb, vagina, rectum;
16. Interstitial Cystitis
Also called painful bladder syndrome, those who suffer from Interstitial cystitis experience pain and pressure in the lower stomach, which becomes worse when the bladder is full or when it is around that time of the month. Moreover, they also feel the constant need to urinate, pain during sex and pain between the vagina and anus. IC may be caused by genetics, autoimmune reaction, infection, allergy, or a defect in the epithelium of the bladder.
17. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, also called PCOS, happens when the body produces androgens in excess. Cysts begin to grow on the ovaries, which, when ruptured, causes pain around the pelvic area. Other symptoms of PCOS include too much hair growth, weight gain, sensitivity to insulin, irregular periods and spottings, and difficulty in becoming pregnant.
18. Uterine Polyps
Uterine polyps are usually benign tumors that grow on the lining of the uterus, which usually affects women approaching the menopausal stage. Aside from cramps, this can also cause irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding in between periods, and bleeding after menopause. Uterine polyps may also lead to cancer.
Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in or on the uterine walls, but they are not to be mistaken with uterine polyps. The latter are smaller while fibroids may vary in size. Fibroids may also be removed non-invasively but removing uterine polyps require more invasive methods. Fibroids are usually experienced by women during their reproductive phase, and the tissues may regress during the menopausal stage. Women who suffer from fibroids experience bleeding and cramps outside their period.
20. Cervix Stenosis
Caused by prior cervical trauma or surgery, those who suffer from cervix stenosis are described to have an unusually narrow or even completely closed opening on their cervix. This leads to the uterus being filled with pus or blood and causes severe pain around the pelvic area.
21. Autoimmune Oophoritis
Autoimmune oophoritis is a rare condition that happens to less than 200,000 women in the US. This happens when the body’s immune system attacks the ovaries, leading to complications such as fibrosis and inflammation. The ovaries of women who suffer autoimmune oophoritis have their ovaries shrunk and hardened, therefore making them also suffer infertility. Aside from cramps and pain around the abdomen, they also get irregular periods.
22. Skene Duct Cysts
The skene duct is sometimes called the female prostate, which is located near the urethra. If this gland is blocked, it may become infected. This is usually painless but may cause discomfort when it becomes large enough to interfere with the passing of urine.
23. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a functional disorder that affects the large intestine. Aside from cramps, people who suffer from IBS also feel stomach pain, gas, swelling or bloating. If you have IBS you may suffer from diarrhea or constipation or both. Moreover, you feel uncomfortably full or nauseous after eating and you may not feel completely empty after a bowel movement.
24. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is not to be confused with IBS. Depending on the type, IBD is an inflammation of a part of the digestive tract which could lead to ulcers or other more serious digestive problems. There are two common types of IBD: Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Crohn’s disease can happen on any part of the digestive tract but can be more often found on the colon. The pain it causes is described as mild to severe, and may be localized to the lower right or middle part of the belly.
Ulcerative Colitis, on the other hand, only involves the large intestine and rectum. Pain caused by ulcer may be localized in the lower left side of the stomach.
There are other symptoms of IBD, such as changes to bowel movements like the constant need to go or not completely feeling empty after a bowel movement. You might also experience weight loss, fatigue, fever, constipation, diarrhea, and blood and/or undigested food in your stool. Moreover, you may observe rashes on your skin.
Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, which is located at the lower right part of the abdomen, is inflamed, irritated, and is put at risk of a rupture. It can cause severe pain and really bad cramps. A person who suffers appendicitis would feel the pain localized at the lower right part of the stomach. It would hurt to cough, sneeze, and move.
26. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar in milk and dairy. Those who suffer this condition may experience diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and gas, 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating lactose. According to the Genetics Home Reference, around 65% of the human population experience a “reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.”
More technically known as dyspepsia, people who suffer indigestion experience stomach cramps, which is felt in the upper part of the abdomen. They also feel full too quickly when they eat.
28. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are masses made up of salts and minerals that form in the kidney. The pain felt when you have kidney stones or kidney problems may be severe which could also be felt from the back or side, below the ribs, and in the groin area. Urinating may be more frequent but the amount of urine is small, and urinating may be extremely painful. If the stones are small enough, they could be flushed out of the body through urine with the help of pain relievers.
Diverticulitis is the inflammation of the diverticula, which are pouches that are formed along the lining of the colon. One who suffers from this condition may experience severe pain in the lower abdomen, which may be more pronounced on the lower right side. This pain may persist for days, along with fever, nausea, and constipation.
30. Thyroid Conditions
The thyroid gland contributes not only to your growth and development but also to your menstrual cycle. Irregular periods may be rooted in thyroid conditions, such as hypothyroidism. For example, if your thyroid causes the increase of prolactin levels in your body, ovulation will be suppressed.
You may not realize it, but stress is actually a big contributor to hormonal imbalance because stress raises up the amount of cortisol in your body. Because of this, you may have delayed or irregular periods. The human body also reads stress as a warning or danger, therefore slowing down your digestion. Therefore, stress not only affects your hormonal cycle, but it can also cause digestive discomforts such as diarrhea.
32. Urinary Tract Infection
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary system which affects more women than men. It usually begins at the urethra, and if not treated may spread toward the bladder and even the kidneys. The cramps experienced by people who suffer UTI experience pain around the pelvic region. Aside from this, they also feel a constant need to urinate, which can come with a burning sensation and even some bleeding.
33. Too Much Exercise
Exercising is great but too much of it may affect your menstrual cycle. First, if you lose weight too quickly your hormonal cycle may be altered. Second, a heavy exercise may be physically stressful for your body. Fluctuating hormones not only make periods irregular but may also cause spottings and acne breakouts.
34. Certain Sex Positions
Something as pleasurable as sexual intercourse may also cause some problems. This is because certain sex positions penetrate too deeply or apply more impact on the genitals and even affect the uterus or ovaries.
35. Eating Disorder
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia also mess with the hormonal cycle as the body adjusts to its needs and perceived threats. Those who suffer from eating disorders may not just experience cramps, but also irregular periods.
36. Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence
Sexual assault and domestic violence do not just result in too much emotional and mental trauma, but it also takes a toll on how a victim’s body normally operates. These experiences make a victim hold in more tension around the genital and pelvic area than they should, and they have a difficulty in relaxing tensed muscles. This unnecessary tension and contractions lead to complications.
Another reason to experience cramps without a period is gas. If aside from cramps you also feel bloated, then perhaps you have extra gas inside your digestive tract. This can be caused by certain types of food, bowel disorders, or food intolerance.
38. Food Poisoning or Stomach Flu
A person who suffers from food poisoning or stomach flu also experiences vomiting and diarrhea. Common causes of food poisoning are salmonella, E.coli, and Campylobacter, which can be contracted from raw or undercooked meat and contaminated food.
39. Previous Surgery
Previous surgeries and stitches done in the abdominal area may also cause you to feel pain-like cramps. Another condition you may experience is abdominal adhesion, which happens when tissue fibers meshe together with organs, which means the scar tissues may stick with the organs. This does not only cause pain, but may lead to blocked intestines or infertility, which then requires another surgery to fix.
How to Telieve Cramps
Whether the cramps you are experiencing is caused by your menstrual cycle or not, cramps are no fun. To help you cope with period cramps, here are some things you should consider:
- Apply heat – Applying a warm compress on your abdomen may help ease the pain as well as a warm bath.
- Stay low – Rest and lay down until you feel better.
- Rub – A massage using essential oils at the abdominal area and on your lower back may do you wonders.
- Eat well and healthy – Believe it or not, your eating habits also affect your cramps. Try to avoid caffeine and food that is rich in salt. Also, avoid smoking and alcoholic beverages. A healthy diet will not just help you relieve cramps, but making it a part of your lifestyle may help avoid severe cramps altogether.
- Exercise – If exercise is not a part of your lifestyle, now is a good time to really consider integrating it into your routine. It is found that those who exercise regularly are less likely to experience period cramps. Avoid period cramps altogether by getting more physical!
- Pain relievers – It is not advised that you resort to pain relievers like ibuprofen right away, as your body might quickly develop immunity toward pain relievers. This means that you will have to take a stronger dosage in the long run. Try to put pain relievers at the end of your list of remedies.
When to See a Doctor about Cramps Without Period
Cramps may be have become a normal part of your monthly cycle, but you should still be wary of symptoms or pains that should make you consider visiting your healthcare provider. You may consult a general practitioner, a gynecologist, urologist, pelvic medicine specialist, or a gastroenterologist, depending on your condition.
If you are experiencing period-related cramps, see your doctor if the pain does not respond to pain relievers. Perhaps it is a sign that you are experiencing a condition outside of your regular period. The same could also be said with cramps that are too severe and constant that it renders you incapable of performing your daily tasks. Also be observant if you are excessively bleeding for an extended period of time during your menstrual cycle.
Second, if you are pregnant, you should be extra vigilant about what happens to your body. If you are pregnant yet you are experiencing constant cramps and/or spottings, it would be good to ask your doctor about this.
Third, for STIs, be observant if you are also experiencing a foul or abnormal discharge. Aside from regular tests if you are sexually active, you should also see a healthcare provider right away if you suspect that you are infected. The repercussions might be irreversible if your condition progresses.
Fourth, for digestion or excretion-related cramps, see if your indigestion lasts for more than a couple of weeks. If you also have difficulty in bowel movements, excrete black stools, or if you find blood in your vomit, see a doctor right away. Aside from this, observe if you are losing or gaining weight too quickly, or if your skin or eyes look jaundiced.
In this article, we pointed out that cramps do not just happen for women when they are on their period. We also described how menstrual cramps feel like and by listing many other possible reasons for having cramps, we are also able to differentiate it with other types of abdominal pain.
This just emphasizes how we must be observant about how our body works and not just ignore what could possibly be signs for other far more serious conditions. At the same time, we should stay calm and not jump to conclusions. At the end of the day, determining the causes why you have cramps but no period should ultimately be determined by a visit to your healthcare provider.
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