What causes cramps?

Pelvic pain and cramps are some of the most recognized signs of the onset of a woman's menstrual period. Cramps during menstruation is a common sign for most women. This sensation is the result of prostaglandin, a lipid-like hormonal compound that causes the uterus muscles to contract.[1],[2]

This contraction helps expel the unfertilized egg and the uterine lining during menstruation. This motion is what causes cramps during your period. Sometimes, a woman can experience these period-cramps, but not have their period. Such an occurrence can be a cause of worry for many, making them rush to the doctor. However, there are several underlying causes for experiencing cramps but no period.

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Causes of Cramps but no period

Cramps but no period causes

Most women are easily able to tell the difference between menstrual cramps and other types of cramps.[3]. However, sometimes the symptoms can be confusing, and experiencing cramps no period afterward may need to be investigated further. Some of the likely causes for experiencing cramping without periods include:

1. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is usually the most common cause of why you are having cramps, but not getting your period. Cramps that are not followed by menstrual bleeding is often one of the first indications of pregnancy. In such cases, the cramping is a sign of implantation cramping. Implantation cramping occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself into the lining of the uterus.[4].

In such a case, you are likely to experience minor cramping or implantation pain. This light cramping typically occurs around the time when you would be getting your periods. This pain occurs when you are already three to four weeks into your pregnancy. In some cases, you may even experience implantation bleeding.[5],[6]. 

2. Delayed onset of a period

Experiencing menstrual cramps, but no period could also be a sign of a late period. Such type of cramping could also be due to ovulation, known as ovulation pain. Ovulation marks the release of eggs from the ovaries, usually taking place around 10 to 15 days before the start of the menstrual period.[7].

At times, ovulation may get extended, which causes a delay in your period. Some women may also end up miscalculating their period date, or they tend to suffer from an irregular menstrual cycle. In such cases, experiencing period cramps without having your periods may cause a lot of anxiety.[8].

3. Menopause

Another cause of experiencing cramps no period show could be due to menopause. Menopause is the medical terminology that describes the end of a woman's menstrual cycle and fertility. Menopause typically occurs after the age of 50 years. In some cases, menopausal women can experience cramps during the perimenopause stage, or the period eventually leading up to menopause. Perimenopause is when the menstrual cycle starts changing, and ovulation stops happening on a regular basis.[9].

4. Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy happens when the fertilized embryo implants itself outside of the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.[10]. In an ectopic pregnancy, a woman can experience mild cramps or sudden and sharp piercing pain, generally reaching the lower back or even the shoulders. An ectopic pregnancy is a severe situation, and you need to seek immediate medical assistance if you experience such kind of sharp, piercing pain.

5. Ovarian Cysts or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that develop on the ovaries. This condition, known as a polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can also be a cause of cramps, but no period. In most cases, the development of these ovarian cysts is not a cause of worry, and they do not generally produce any symptoms. Occasionally, some women may experience lower abdominal cramps, especially if these cysts continue to grow in size and rupture. It is necessary to seek treatment to relieve pain and discomfort in such cases.[11].

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Bad cramps no period tips to relieve discomfort

Tips to Relieve Discomfort from bad cramps no period

 Listed below are some helpful tips to reduce the discomfort of such cramps, but not having your period.  

●    It is essential to take rest or lie down for some time. This pose will help alleviate the pain. 

●    Apply a hot bottle wrapped in a towel or a heating pad in the affected area. Applying this at regular intervals can help reduce the cramps. 

●    Drink a warm beverage such as warm milk, or hot herbal tea will help. 

●    Try soaking yourself in warm water to relax the aching muscles. 

●    A walk or a stroll can help keep your body active and has been shown to help women experiencing cramps. [12]

●    Gently rubbing the area may help relieve the pain.

Cramps but no period can prove distressing, especially if you are not able to determine the cause for this. If your cramps tend to persist or return in intervals, then it could be an indication that it is happening due to a deeper issue and needs to be treated. 

At the same time, you should look for any type of abnormal changes in your body or any signs and symptoms apart from the cramps attempting to narrow down where the problem may lie. These factors can help your doctor determine the cause of cramps with no period. 

If you are a patient with an underlying thyroid disorder or PCOS, then your cramps could indicate hormonal fluctuation. In such a case, you should consult your endocrinologist or gynecologist for further examination. 

If you have a history of fibroids or cysts and find that the pain continues during each cycle, you should consult a gynecologist to determine if your fibroids or cysts have returned.  

See: Ayurvedic Treatment For Menstrual Cycle Pain & Cramps

Summary

It is usually difficult to ascertain the cause of cramps no period. There can be many causes for experiencing pains and then not have your periods. These can range from simple reasons such as pregnancy, PCOS, delayed onset of the period, menopause, and even a serious cause such as an ectopic pregnancy, which needs immediate medical attention. If you find yourself having cramps and no periods every month,  it is recommended that you consult a doctor to find the underlying medical cause.

See: Implantation Cramps vs PMS Cramps Difference

References

1. Chan, W.Y., 1983. Prostaglandins and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs in dysmenorrhea. Annual review of pharmacology & toxicology, 23(1), pp.131-149.

2. Dawood, M.Y., 1987. Dysmenorrhea and prostaglandins. In Gynecologic endocrinology (pp. 405-421). Springer, Boston, MA.

3. Grandi, G., Ferrari, S., Xholli, A., Cannoletta, M., Palma, F., Romani, C., Volpe, A., and Cagnacci, A., 2012. Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea?. Journal of pain research, 5, p.169.

4. Norwitz, E.R., Schust, D.J., and Fisher, S.J., 2001. Implantation and the survival of early pregnancy. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(19), pp.1400-1408. 

5. Harville, E.W., Wilcox, A.J., Baird, D.D., and Weinberg, C.R., 2003. Vaginal bleeding in very early pregnancy. Human Reproduction, 18(9), pp.1944-1947.

6. Snell, B.J., 2009. Assessment and management of bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Journal of midwifery & women's health, 54(6), pp.483-491.

7. Charlewood, G.P., 1958. Mittelschmerz or ovulation pain. South African Medical Journal, 32(3). 

8. Popat, V.B., Prodanov, T., Calis, K.A., and Nelson, L.M., 2008. The menstrual cycle, a biological marker of general health in adolescents. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1135, p.43.

9. Prior, J.C., 1998. Perimenopause: the complex endocrinology of the menopausal transition. Endocrine Reviews, 19(4), pp.397-428.

10. Barnhart, K.T., 2009. Ectopic pregnancy. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(4), pp.379-387.

11. Guzick, D.S., 2004. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 103(1), pp.181-193.

12. Daley, A.J., 2008. Exercise and primary dysmenorrhoea. Sports Medicine, 38(8), pp.659-670.

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