Causes of Cramps without period can be a sign of several health conditions, including infections, stress, hormonal disorders, and physical abnormalities of the uterus or ovaries. Many people experience cramps that feel like PMS symptoms, but they’re not actually due to a period.
Want to know what you could be dealing with? Here are 25 possible causes that may be fueling your cramps, according to experts.
Pregnancy sometimes is one of the causes of cramps without period. The symptoms of early pregnancy—including fatigue, mood swings, breast tenderness, and cramping—are very similar to the symptoms you might experience before and during your period. If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, it’s a good idea to take a pregnancy test, even if you don’t think you’re pregnant.
Many people who use hormonal IUDs experience what’s known as “amenorrhea,” which means the absence of a period. Hormonal IUDs work by thinning out the endometrial lining in the uterus, so there is nothing to shed during a period. This also means that some people experience PMS symptoms, like cramping and breast tenderness, without actually menstruating. Similarly, while birth control pills can sometimes cause light periods or spotting, IUD is still one of the causes of cramps without period.
Sometimes, the body undergoes hormonal changes similar to those during PMS, without actually releasing an egg, resulting in what’s known as an anovulatory cycle which sometimes is one of the causes of cramps without a period. Roughly 10 to 18 percent of regular cycles fall into this category, and it can occur randomly or be linked to factors like low body weight, PCOS, or nearing menopause, as per Cleveland Clinic. While occasional missed periods are usually normal, consulting a doctor is crucial if you experience fever, severe nausea, persistent unmanageable pain, or if you skip more than three cycles consecutively, advises Dr. Shepherd.
4. Thyroid Conditions
When your thyroid gland, which regulates various bodily functions including metabolism and menstrual cycles, becomes imbalanced, it can lead to irregular periods and persistent cramping, notes Dr. Shepherd. Moreover, Dr. Moss highlights that fluctuations in thyroid function can affect your mood swings, sometimes mistaken for PMS-related symptoms, due to its impact on brain function. Additionally, the absence of ovulation can lead to a buildup of uterine lining, resulting in spotting and cramping.
Thyroid conditions are occasionally misdiagnosed or diagnosed late, particularly among certain minority groups, such as Black and Asian communities in the U.S., emphasizes Dr. Akhunji, an endocrinologist with Paloma Health. Dr. Akhunji further explains the disproportionate impact of hyperthyroidism, like Grave’s disease, on Black and Asian populations, while hypothyroidism, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, tends to be more prevalent among white women.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Occasional missed periods can indicate PCOS, a condition characterized by excess androgens affecting ovary function, hair growth, weight, and insulin sensitivity, explains Dr. Moss. This can lead to anovulatory cycles and irregular spotting, often accompanied by the growth of cysts on the ovaries, which is one of the causes of cramps without period.
Dr. Moss further notes that up to 20 percent of women globally experience PCOS, with prevalence more common among those who are overweight or have a family history of the condition. While there is no specific racial or ethnic group with a higher prevalence, certain groups may exhibit distinct symptoms. For instance, Hispanics may experience more severe symptoms like excess hair and acne, while Black individuals might face an increased risk of heart disease alongside PCOS. Medical disparities can also play a role, as access to quality care and healthcare provider attitudes may vary among different communities.
Consulting a doctor is essential if you suspect you have PCOS, as they can help manage symptoms and restore regular menstrual cycles through various medications and treatments.
6. Ovarian Cysts
Your ovaries typically produce multiple cysts every month in preparation for ovulation, with only one releasing an egg. While these usually dissolve naturally before your period, some cysts may persist, especially in the case of anovulatory cycles like those in PCOS which sometimes Causes of Cramps Without a Period . Ovarian cysts often remain asymptomatic, although they can occasionally induce period-like discomfort outside of menstruation. If you’re experiencing irregular cramping, it’s advisable to discuss it with your doctor.
Dr. Moss emphasizes that cysts themselves generally pose no significant issues. However, if they grow to a substantial size, they can lead to ovarian torsion, a painful condition requiring immediate medical intervention to save the ovary.
Dr. Shepherd points out that stress is a common factor contributing to missed periods, as it raises cortisol levels, impacting the delicate balance of hormones regulating the ovaries and uterine lining. While experiencing stress-induced hormonal changes, which is one of the causes of cramps without period .
Various stressors, from intense life events like exams, grief, and breakups to everyday pressures at work, can disrupt your menstrual cycle. Even seemingly minor stressors can accumulate, affecting your physical and mental well-being without your immediate awareness. Dr. Shepherd emphasizes the importance of recognizing stress and its impact on your body.
If you suspect that stress is affecting your menstrual cycle, discussing it with your doctor is advisable. Implementing stress-reducing strategies like therapy, exercise, yoga, and meditation can be beneficial in restoring hormonal balance and regularizing your periods.
8. Uterine Polyps
Although commonly associated with the colon, polyps can also develop in the uterus as small, noncancerous growths, as explained by Dr. Moss. These uterine polyps involve an overgrowth of the uterine lining which is one of the causes of cramps without period, even outside of your menstrual cycle.
Due to the potential hindrance of fertility and the slight risk of evolving into uterine cancer, your doctor may recommend their removal. Typically, this is done through a relatively straightforward procedure called a hysteroscopy. This involves the insertion of a long tube through the vagina into the uterus, allowing the doctor to visualize and excise the polyps using a scope.
9. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
Pelvic cramping is a common symptom associated with a urinary tract infection (UTI)which is one of the causes of cramps without period , notes Dr. Ross. You might also experience frequent urination, along with pain, burning sensations, and blood in your urine. When bacteria enter your urinary system, it can lead to an infection, and approximately one in five women may experience a UTI at some point in their lives.
If you suspect that your cramps are related to a UTI, it’s crucial to visit your ob-gyn or primary care physician promptly. Treatment with antibiotics can swiftly resolve the infection. However, if left untreated, a UTI could escalate into a severe and potentially life-threatening kidney infection. Seeking immediate medical assistance upon noticing signs of a UTI is advisable.
10. Exercising Too Much
Regular exercise can help alleviate PMS symptoms which is one of the causes of cramps without period , but overexertion at the gym can have the opposite effect, potentially leading to missed periods, as mentioned by Dr. Scott. Intense physical stress, particularly if accompanied by significant body fat loss, can disrupt your menstrual cycle and cause irregular hormone fluctuations, manifesting as mood swings, sporadic spotting, acne, and PMS-like symptoms such as cramping without an actual period.
Remember, if you miss your period for three consecutive cycles or more, it’s important to consult your doctor for further evaluation and guidance.
11. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) sometimes is one of the causes of cramps without period and its characterized by an infection affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, commonly resulting from the spread of sexually transmitted bacteria from the vagina to the reproductive organs.
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, an obstetrician-gynecologist and author of She-ology, emphasizes that STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea are the typical culprits behind this serious pelvic infection, which can lead to pelvic pain and infertility. Regular STI checks, especially between new sexual partners, are essential to ensure you’re not carrying harmful STIs. If you suspect you have PID or are at risk, consult your doctor for proper evaluation and treatment.
12. Certain Sex Positions
certain sex positions is one of the causes of cramps without period, according to Dr. Ross. This is often due to certain sexual positions that put pressure on the vagina and female reproductive organs, including the uterus and ovaries. For instance, positions like doggie style, allowing deeper penetration, can cause discomfort for many women, whereas the missionary position tends to be more comfortable.
Dr. Greg Marchand, an Arizona-based ob-gyn, further explains that certain sex positions that move the uterus may lead to sharp, stabbing pains, particularly if the ligaments are strained, possibly radiating to the groin. It’s advisable to avoid repeating any movements that cause pain, and if the discomfort persists the following day, consulting your doctor is recommended. Experimenting with your partner to find the most comfortable positions for your body can be beneficial.
Dr. Ross highlights that endometriosis occurs when the tissue that typically grows inside the uterus develops outside of it, primarily in the pelvic region, which sometimes causes cramps without period. Unlike regular PMS pain, pelvic discomfort linked to endometriosis can manifest days or weeks earlier than standard PMS cramping, persisting for several days even after your period concludes, leaving very few pain-free days throughout your cycle. Notably, endometriosis-related cramping occurs independently of other PMS symptoms such as mood swings.
Obtaining an endometriosis diagnosis can be a prolonged process. Dr. Jodie Horton, an obstetrician-gynecologist and chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness, explains that Black and Latinx populations are only half as likely to receive an endometriosis diagnosis. Additionally, racial bias can lead to the undertreatment of pain in Black patients, with BIPOC individuals often having their endometriosis symptoms downplayed or attributed to anxiety.
Diagnosing endometriosis poses challenges due to the array of conditions causing painful periods and pelvic discomfort. Symptoms of endometriosis can vary widely from person to person, with some individuals experiencing severe symptoms despite having few lesions, while others with extensive disease may exhibit no symptoms at all, as explained by Dr. Horton. In some cases, excision surgery is necessary to remove tissue and confirm an endometriosis diagnosis.
14. A Miscarriage
Dr. Ross emphasizes that miscarriages are more common than often perceived, with every pregnant woman having a 25 percent chance of experiencing one. Signs of a potential miscarriage may include intense menstrual-like cramping. If you are pregnant and encountering severe cramping, it is crucial to contact your doctor immediately for prompt evaluation and appropriate guidance.
15. Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer, though relatively uncommon its sometimes one of the causes of cramps without period , ranks fifth in cancer-related deaths among women, according to the American Cancer Society. As highlighted by Dr. Scott, this is primarily because it often presents with either no symptoms or subtle indications. While the majority of ovarian cancers occur after menopause, resulting in the absence of periods, they can cause abdominal and pelvic pain and cramping, notes Dr. Tanouye. However, certain rare types of ovarian cancers may develop in premenopausal women.
Although missing your period isn’t the most typical symptom of ovarian cancer, other potential signs include abdominal bloating, urinary issues, unexplained weight loss, and abdominal or pelvic discomfort. If you’ve missed your period for three months or more or are experiencing other concerning symptoms, such as inexplicable pelvic discomfort, it’s crucial to contact your doctor for further evaluation and necessary medical attention.