- Menstrual Cramps Without a Period
- When to See a Doctor
- Related Resources
What are menstrual cramps without a period?
Although it is relatively common to experience menstrual cramps during your period, menstruation itself isn’t the only reason you might have period-like cramps. Painful cramps can take place at any time during your menstrual cycle, and while they’re often nothing to worry about, some cases do need attention.
Various risk factors may increase your odds of having strong pelvic or menstrual cramps that aren’t directly related to your period. Some of these include:
Signs of menstrual cramps without a period
Menstrual cramps occur in the lower stomach or pelvis. They usually start during the first or second day of a woman’s period.
Causes of menstrual cramps without a period
There are many reasons why you might have menstrual cramps without your period, ranging from normal and natural to serious medical conditions. If you’re only experiencing sudden or unexpected cramps, it may not be easy to tell one from the other.
Here are just a few of the reasons you might have non-period cramps:
You may be ovulating. This is the simplest and most common reason for cramps outside your period. Ovulation happens naturally within 10 to 14 days of your period when your ovaries release an unfertilized egg as part of your menstrual cycle. This doesn’t always cause pain, but many women report dull or sharp pains around their lower abdomen during ovulation.
Another common reason you may have menstrual cramps without a period is pregnancy. Cramping can and often does occur when a fertilized embryo implants itself into your uterine lining. Be on the lookout for other pregnancy-related symptoms, especially spotting, breast tenderness, and nausea (especially in the morning!).
Ovarian cysts can also cause cramping. These cysts can form when the fluid-filled sacs around your ovaries either don’t allow an egg to pass through for ovulation or fail to properly close after the egg is released. Either case may lead to cramping.
Endometriosis develops when the uterine lining starts growing outside your uterus, such as in your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or bladder. Several therapies for endometriosis exist, ranging from over-the-counter pain relief medications to hormone therapy.
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a condition that affects your bladder. It is often called “painful bladder syndrome.” Painful cramping is one of its characteristic symptoms, along with feeling frequent urges to urinate. While there’s no cure for IC, it is treatable through diet changes, physical therapy, and other means.
There are also many other reasons why you could be having menstrual cramps without a period, including:
Given the wide variety of possible causes, it’s a good idea to have your symptoms checked out by a health professional if you’re experiencing unusual menstrual cramps.
When to see the doctor for menstrual cramps without a period
Whether to see your doctor for your menstrual cramps depends on the additional symptoms you may be experiencing. Although there are many natural reasons why you might have cramps without a period, enough causes for concern exist that you may wish to see a doctor anyway.
Consider the following before making your decision:
- How painful your cramps are
- How long your pain lasts
- Whether you have other symptoms in addition to cramps
- Where you are in your monthly menstrual cycle
Diagnosing menstrual cramps without a period
Healthcare providers have many tools at their disposal to accurately diagnose your condition. A few of these include:
- Ultrasound — uses sound waves to create a detailed image of your abdominal and reproductive organs
- Hysteroscopy — uses a medical scope, called a hysteroscope, to examine your uterus and cervix directly
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) — Uses a magnetic field and radio waves to diagram and visualize your internal organs
The exact test used, like the treatment applied, will depend on your doctor’s initial evaluation of your symptoms.
Treatments for menstrual cramps without a period
Many of the same pain relievers used to treat strong cramps during your period, such as ibuprofen, can also treat menstrual cramps you may feel without your period. In many cases, this medication may be all that you need.
If your cramps have a deeper underlying cause, such as endometriosis, your treatment will depend on your age, how severe your symptoms are, and how much the disease has progressed. Most therapies will be as noninvasive as possible, but surgical intervention may be needed if your symptoms are serious and persistent.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Dysmenorrhea: Painful Periods."
British Journal of General Practice: "The role of exercise in the treatment of menstrual disorders: the evidence."
Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations: "Pelvic Pain."
Dignity Health: "Pelvic pain."
Endocrinology and Metabolism: "Association between Body Weight Changes and Menstrual Irregularity: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2010 to 2012."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Dysfunctional Uterine Bleeding."
Healthgrades: "When to See a Doctor for Menstrual Cramps."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Period Pain: Could It Be Endometriosis?"
Journal of Education and Health Promotion: "The Effect of aerobic exercise on primary dysmenorrhea: A clinical trial study."
NHS: "Week-by-week guide to pregnancy."
NHS "Ovulation Pain."
Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology: "Thyroid hormones and menstrual cycle function in a longitudinal cohort of premenopausal women."
Postgraduate Medical Journal: "Exercise and hormonal secretion."
Seattle Children's Hospital: "Menstrual Cramps."
Sports Medicine: "Muscle Cramping During Exercise: Causes, Solutions, and Questions Remaining."
University of Utah Health: "Severe Menstrual Pain? It Could Be Something Serious."
University of Washington Department of Urology: "Interstitial Cystitis."
Womenshealth: “Ovarian cysts."
Top Why Am I Having Menstrual Cramps but No Period Related Articles
Pregnancy SymptomsWhat are the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy? Can you know before your missed period? Read about nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), bloating, tender breasts, and more. Explore first trimester symptoms of pregnancy and learn what week pregnancy symptoms start.
Endometriosis implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity. They also can be found in the vagina, cervix, and bladder. Endometriosis may not produce any symptoms, but when it does the most common symptom is pelvic pain that worsens just prior to menstruation and improves at the end of the menstrual period. Other symptoms of endometriosis include pain during sex, pain with pelvic examinations, cramping or pain during bowel movements or urination, and infertility.
Treatment of endometriosis can be with medication or surgery.
Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)Interstitial cystitis (IC)/painful bladder syndrome (PBS) is an inflammatory disease of the bladder that can cause ulceration and bleeding of the bladder's lining and can lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder. Symptoms of interstitial cystitis may vary among individuals and may even vary with time in the same individual.
Can You Get Menstrual Cramps After Exercise Like Running?Menstrual cramps affect many women. Learn if exercise like running can cause menstrual cramps and how you can treat them.
Menstrual Cramps and PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) Treatment
Menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include abdominal cramping, bloating, a feeling of fullness, abdominal pain, mood swings, anxiety and more. Treatment for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include regular sleep, exercise, smoking cessation, diet changes, and OTC or prescription medication depending on the severity of the condition.
Menstruation (Menstrual Cycle)Menstruation (menstrual cycle) is also referred to as a "period." When a woman menstruates, the lining of the uterus is shed. This shedding of the uterine linking is the menstrual blood flow. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days. There can be problems with a woman's period, including heavy bleeding, pain, or skipped periods. Causes of these problems may be amenorrhea (lack of a period), menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), or abnormal vaginal or uterine bleeding. There are a variety of situations in which a girl or woman should see a doctor about her menstrual cycle.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled, sac-like structures within an ovary. Symptoms of an ovarian cysts may be:
- Pain in the belly or pelvis
- A feeling for the need to have a bowel movement
- Urgency to urinate
- Pain during intercourse.
There are a variety of causes and types of ovarian cysts, and treatment depends upon type of cyst.
PerimenopausePerimenopause is the time in a woman's life when she is approaching menopause. During this time a woman starts to develop symptoms of declining estrogen levels that may include mood swings, painful sex, night sweats, hot flashes, and weight gain. Every adult woman eventually will experience perimenopause.
Pregnancy (Week by Week, Trimesters)Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include breast swelling and tenderness, nausea and sometimes vomiting, fatigue, and bloating. Second trimester symptoms include backache, weight gain, itching, and possible stretch marks. Third trimester symptoms are additional weight gain, heartburn, hemorrhoids, swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping. Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
25 Ways to Relieve Menstrual CrampsMenstrual cramps happen when prostaglandins force the uterus to contract. Dysmenorrhea, or period pain, may be relieved by heating pads, ibuprofen, and other measures. Endometriosis may cause severe cramps during the menstrual cycle. Luckily, women have many options for period pain relief.
What Does Cervical Mucus Look Like After Ovulation?The consistency of cervical mucus fluctuates throughout the month. Learn what cervical mucus should look like during and after ovulation and when you should see a doctor.
What Is the Average Age a Woman Stops Menstruating?The menstrual cycle is a series of hormone-regulated changes that a woman's body goes through to get it ready for a possible pregnancy. Women usually stop menstruating or attain menopause in their 40 or 50s, the average age being 50 years old.