What Causes Cramps but No Period?
When you experience cramps but no period, it is most likely a sign of pregnancy. However, several factors affect a woman’s cycle. The body is typically able to regulate itself to enable menstruation, but what happens when you miss your cycle?
What is it when you experience cramps but no period? Is it a sign of pregnancy when there is no period with cramps?
Cramps but No Period: The Most Common Causes
1. An Early Sign of Pregnancy
More likely than not, anatomy teaches us that the answer to the above question (are you pregnant if you have cramps but no period?) is “yes” (depending on how late a woman’s period is).
During early pregnancy, a female will miss her period and experience cramps due to the expansion of her uterus, and the implantation of the fertilized egg. These “twinges” of pain, can be mistaken for cramps associated with the pre-menstrual syndrome.
Early pregnancy symptoms that also feel like the side-effects of PMS include breast sensitivity/tenderness, nipple enlargement, and morning sickness. Implantation bleeding may also occur during the early stages of pregnancy, which many women sometimes mistake for the beginning of their period (1).
2. Ectopic Pregnancy
A more serious cause for concern when a woman is experiencing cramps without a period an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a woman becomes pregnant, but the fertilized egg is not implanted in her uterus, but rather one of her fallopian tubes. It is a dangerous situation that requires serious medical attention, as an ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening.
Not only can a woman experience severe damage to her fallopian tubes which can result in future infertility, if left untreated, she can also die. It is important to always consult with an OB/GYN if your period is more than a few days late, and the cramps you are experiencing are intense.
Cramps but No Period: Other Possible Causes
While pregnancy is one of the common reasons for a late period and the display of menstrual related symptoms (such as cramps), various other reasons can delay the onset of a woman’s period.
Symptoms associated with cramps and no period include but are not limited to:
- Weight Loss
- Weight Gain
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- Ovarian Cysts
- Ovarian Cancer
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Perimenopause, or even Delayed Ovulation
1. Delayed Ovulation
During ovulation, some woman may experience cramps like those at the onset/during her period. Menstrual cramps but no period may simply just be a symptom of a woman’s most fertile window during her cycle.
Weight gain has been shown to have a strong correlation with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and with the rising epidemic of obesity in our country, is the number one leading cause of a child bearing aged women missing their period but still experiencing cramps (besides pregnancy).
3. Weight loss
Contrarywise, sudden weight loss (an immense amount in a short time) can also contribute to a missed cycle. A female’s body needs a healthy level of fat in her body to bear a child; without the correct amount of adipose tissue, the body will not be able to ovulate or menstruate.
Endometriosis and weight loss or change do not have a correlation to each other. However, it can also be a culprit of a missed/late period (especially with intense cramps). A woman who is diagnosed with endometriosis suffers from her uterine wall growing thicker than it normally should.
It can cause incredibly heavy and painful cycles, and disturb the regularity of one’s cycle- thus, causing a woman to have cramps but no period.
For women who are exiting their childbearing years, the most predominate cause for cramps without a period is the onset of menopause. Menopause occurs when a woman no longer creates the amount of estrogen or progesterone required to carry a baby, and the ovaries are no longer able to create an egg fit for fertilization.
Emotionally, menopause is not an easy transition for a woman. No longer being able to become pregnant marks a significant change in a female’s life, like the first time she realized she could become pregnant (her first period).
It is important to consult with your GYN if you believe that you are entering menopause, as hormonal therapies and treatments are available to make the transition easier.
Besides the other reasons mentioned above, having cramps without a period can be a symptom of a more serious, underlying condition. Irritable bowel syndrome has been known to change a woman’s cycle, and cause cramps (which is often mistaken as menstrual cramps) can be related to the progression of the disease.
7. Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer can also cause a missed or late period with severe abdominal cramps. If you have been experiencing painful intercourse, abdominal heaviness/fullness, loss of appetite, and cramps without a period- it might be time to consult with you doctor.
Schedule regular checkups and PAP smear examinations to treat the abnormal cell growth on time.
Cramps but No Period: How to Relieve the Discomfort
Regardless of the reason behind a female experiencing cramps without a period, the result is a painful and annoying sensation in the lower abdomen and (sometimes) back.
There are several self-care regimes you can implement to alleviate the pain caused by cramps. Here are a few of them:
- Use a heating pad and ice pack, or alternate between the two; heat will have an effect on the cramping (can lessen contractions), while the cold will help with numbing the pain
- Take a hot bath, as the water can contribute to reducing the cramping
- Drink herbal tea or warm lemon water
- Massage your abdomen or back to reduce cramps without a period
- Partake in intercourse (if energy levels are high enough)
- Lie down and rest
One can also take advantage of over the counter pain relievers, such as Ibuprofen and Tylenol. PMS treatment such as Midol may also help with the cramping (and even bloating).