- Menstrual Cramps Without a Period
- When to See a Doctor
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
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.
Women's Conditions Resources
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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Dysmenorrhea: Painful Periods."
Dignity Health: "Pelvic pain."
Healthgrades: "When to See a Doctor for Menstrual Cramps."
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Period Pain: Could It Be Endometriosis?"
NHS: "Week-by-week guide to pregnancy."
NHS "Ovulation Pain."
Seattle Children's Hospital: "Menstrual Cramps."
University of Utah Health: "Severe Menstrual Pain? It Could Be Something Serious."
University of Washington Department of Urology: "Interstitial Cystitis."
Womenshealth: “Ovarian cysts."