Why do I have cramps but no period?

Several conditions can cause cramps but no period or cramping when not on period.
Several conditions can cause cramps but no period.

Pelvic pain similar to a menstrual period can happen at times when no period is due or can occur because of conditions other than the monthly cycle. Sometimes it is hard to tell the exact reason for cramps that feel like a menstrual period.

The following diseases and conditions are examples of situations that can cause pain or cramps when not on your period.

Ovulation

In the middle of the menstrual cycle, or about 10-14 days before your period, ovulation occurs. This is the release of an egg from a follicle within the ovary.

  • Symptoms can include mild cramping that may be sharp or dull, lasting a few minutes to hours. It typically occurs on one side of the abdomen only.

Ovarian cyst

A cyst is an enclosed tissue sac filled with fluid. The ovary is a common location for cyst development.

  • A small ovarian cyst typically does not cause symptoms, but if the cyst ruptures, it can cause sudden, sharp pains or cramps on one side of the lower abdomen. An enlarging cyst may cause dull pain or a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the lower abdomen or back.

Ovarian cancer

This is a rare cause of pain or pressure within the abdomen or pelvis.

  • Ovarian cancer may not cause any symptoms, but if the cancer is large, it can cause pain or pressure in the abdomen or back, a feeling of heaviness or fullness, swelling of the abdomen, and feeling an urgent need to urinate.

Pregnancy

Sometimes women in the very early stages of pregnancy experience slight cramping, similar to mild menstrual cramps, right around the time that the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This is termed “implantation pain” and happens right around the time of the expected period.

  • Usually there are no other symptoms at this time other than the absence of a period. Sometimes there is light spotting at the time of implantation.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy refers to a fertilized egg attaching in an abnormal location outside of the uterus (womb), typically in the fallopian tubes.

Endometriosis

This is a condition in which tissue, similar to that found inside the uterus, grows in other locations outside of the uterus. It is a very common condition.

  • Endometriosis can cause painful menstrual cramping during the menstrual period and at other times of the month as well. It can cause infertility, painful bowel movements, or pain during sex in some women.

SLIDESHOW

Pelvic Pain: What's Causing Your Pelvic Pain? See Slideshow

Why Haven't I Gotten My Period?

10 symptoms of perimenopause

Perimenopause refers to the time period that begins when the ovaries begin to decline in function and continues until menopause (defined as the total cessation of menstrual flow for one calendar year). During this time, a woman may exhibit these symptoms that are largely due to abnormal hormonal fluctuations:

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Hot flashes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased fertility
  • Loss of bone density
  • Mood changes
  • Altered blood cholesterol levels

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

PID refers to an inflammation of the internal sex organs that usually results from spread of a sexually transmitted disease. It is usually caused by bacteria that spread from the vagina and cervix upward into the uterus, tubes and ovaries.

Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome

This is a condition that results from chronic inflammation of the bladder. It can cause pain at any time of the month.

  • Symptoms typically get worse when the bladder is full (when you have to urinate). It can cause pain and tenderness in the low abdomen or pelvic area. Other possible symptoms are painful urination and feeling an urgent need to urinate.

Appendicitis

The appendix is a small pouch of tissue attached to one end of the large intestine. When it becomes irritated and inflamed (appendicitis), it may rupture and cause more serious problems.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD refers to chronic (long-term) inflammation in the bowels (intestines). Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are forms of IBD.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

This disorder is different from IBD. With IBS there are a number of symptoms related to digestion, but there is no chronic inflammation in the intestines as with IBD.

  • Symptoms of IBS can vary from mild to severe. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain or cramping. The abdominal pain may be relieved by having a bowel movement. The symptoms may be more bothersome during your menstrual period.

Indigestion

This refers to having symptoms related to the digestive symptoms and is a common complaint. Indigestion is also referred to as dyspepsia.

  • Symptoms of indigestion usually include pain in the upper part of the abdomen, feeling overly full, or feeling too full after eating. Bloating and gas can also cause symptoms that may feel like cramping in the lower abdomen.

QUESTION

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)? See Answer

When to seek medical attention

Always seek medical attention for the following serious symptoms that can accompany cramps or pain:

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Medically Reviewed on 9/4/2019
References


Jameson, J.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Period pain: Overview." Aug. 1, 2019.
<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279324/>
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