As a woman, I'm pretty used to cramps. I get cramps every month during my period, but sometimes I get really bad cramps but no period. It’s actually common due to some reasons.
The reasons why you have cramps but no period include:
- Hormonal changes
- Food poisoning
And sometimes, you may experience abdominal pain that feels like cramps but actually isn't cramping at all.
So, don’t panic if you’re suffering from cramps, but your period is AWOL.
Read on to find out more about the most common reasons you're suffering from stomach cramps and what you can do to relieve them.
Cramps but no period are still part of your menstrual cycle
According to Women's Health Concern, around 80% of women experience period cramps every month. But you can have cramps caused by your menstrual cycle even if you don't get a regular period.
The bleeding during your period is just one part of your menstrual cycle. Just like cramping, ovulation and hormone changes are also a part of your cycle.
Cramps caused by your menstrual cycle happen when your hormones signal to your uterus to shed its lining. So menstrual cramps are just your uterine muscles contracting to help clear the lining.
However, just because your hormones signal to your uterus to cramp doesn't mean your period will happen. The most common causes of period cramps without a period are:
Pregnancy and miscarriage
We've broken down the two main reasons you could skip a period but still have menstrual cramps.
1. Hormonal imbalance can cause missed periods
Both cramping and your period are caused by hormonal changes during your menstrual cycle. When your hormones are unbalanced, you could experience cramps but no period. Having a "missed period" is a common sign your hormones have changed.
When your hormones aren't balanced during your cycle, you could experience anovulation. This is when your body doesn't ovulate and release an egg, so your uterus has nothing to shed because it never grew a lining, so you don't bleed but still get PMS symptoms, including cramps.
Hormonal imbalance can happen for several reasons, including Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or stress. PCOS occurs when your ovaries produce too much of a hormone called androgens. This creates an imbalance leading to a missed period but lots of cramps.
Hormonal imbalance caused by PCOS is so common, research shows it affects around 20% of adult women worldwide.
Other symptoms of hormonal imbalance include:
- Excess body hair
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Spotting during the cycle
- Feeling cold or unwell
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Low sex drive
- Hair loss
If you think hormonal imbalance could be the reason you are having PMS and cramps but no period, check out this article:
2. Cramping in the uterus can be an early sign of pregnancy or miscarriage
Another primary reason you can have regular period cramps but no period is pregnancy or miscarriage.
Depending on your birth control, one reason for menstrual cramping but no period could be an early sign of pregnancy. You could also be miscarrying a foetus within days of conception, resulting in cramping.
Although most birth control is very effective, there is always some room for error. No birth control is 100% effective, meaning pregnancy is always an option.
Cramps in early pregnancy
If you get pregnant accidentally or on purpose, your body will change immediately. To prepare for a baby, your organs shift, your hormones fluctuate, and you could experience cramping. As blood flows to our uterus to provide for the foetus, your muscles cramp and spasm. Research has found this is a type of implantation cramp.
However, if you are on birth control and the pregnancy is accidental, your body may not be suitable for long-term pregnancy, and therefore you could suffer a natural miscarriage. This can also result in cramping as your body removes the fertilised egg.
In the case of an early-stage miscarriage, you may have intense cramping followed by spotting, or you could have a very heavy period a month later. In both cases, studies suggest that cramping is a common sign.
If you think you might be in the early stages of pregnancy or would like more information about unusual signs of pregnancy, this article could help:
Can endometriosis cause cramps but no period?
Yes, endometriosis is another condition that can cause cramps but no regular period.
Endometriosis occurs when womb tissue grows outside the womb. This can be extremely painful, change your menstrual cycle and cause fertility issues.
If you regularly experience menstrual cramps without a regular period, you may have endometriosis, and you should speak to a medical professional.
How to treat cramps caused by the menstrual cycle
When cramping is caused by your menstrual cycle and hormones, you can treat it the same way as regular period cramps. Even if you don't have a period, it's still menstrual cramps, so you can use traditional methods to treat these cramps for immediate relief.
Here are some of the most effective at-home remedies to treat period cramps:
- Heath pack or hot water bottle
- Warm bath
- Yoga and stretching
- Over-the-counter painkillers
- Menstrual Cramps Tea Siam Ginger Lemongrass Tea
- Rose tea
To find out more about how rose tea helps with period cramps, check out this article:
While at-home natural remedies for PCOS and other hormonal problems can be effective, they are often just temporary solutions. You should speak to a medical professional to treat the cause of the issue and relieve cramps if you have any symptoms of PCOS or miscarriage.
It is relatively common to experience menstrual cramps without having a proper period. Hormonal imbalance, PCOS, endometriosis, pregnancy and miscarriage can cause regular period cramps. If you experience cramps, but no period you don't need to worry, treat them the way you would if you have a regular period.
Acid reflux and indigestion can cause cramping and pain
Not all cramps in your abdomen are related to your menstrual cycle. Another major cause of cramping is your stomach and digestive system.
You could experience cramps but no period because the pain can be caused by indigestion, acid reflux, food poisoning or allergies. If your cramps are caused by your digestive system, they could happen at any time and are not related to your period.
When you have problems with your digestive system, your stomach, oesophagus, intestines or colon could contract causing pain that feels like period cramps but aren't.
In some cases, you may get acid reflux. This is when acid that should stay in your stomach moves to other parts of your digestive system, causing pain and cramping.
Research found that acid reflux caused by indigestion is a common reason for cramping. The same study found that acid reflux caused cramps, stomach pain, nausea and bloating. These are all similar symptoms to PMS and might trick you into thinking your cramps are caused by your menstrual cycle.
How to deal with cramps caused by acid reflux and indigestion?
Improving your digestion naturally can help prevent and also help treat cramps when they happen.Here’s our step-by-step guide to tracking your cramps and finding a solution:
- Start a journal, making a note of when you feel cramps, indigestion or acid reflux.
- When you feel a cramp, write down what you ate before they started.
- When you notice a pattern, start eliminating foods one at a time.
- Allow several weeks for each elimination to be sure.
- If you want confirmation, speak to a medical professional about an allergy test.
- Once you’ve identified a problem food, remove it from your diet where possible.
- If you cannot remove it safely, speak to a professional about ways to reduce pain and improve digestion.
You can also take herbal remedies and medications to help improve digestion and help your body recover. If you think acid reflux and indigestion could be the reason you experience stomach pain, check out this article for some natural remedies:
Cramping in your abdomen can also be caused by indigestion, constipation or acid reflux. When you are struggling to digest food, your muscles cramp to remove the food. Acid reflux can also have symptoms similar to PMS, which can be misleading. Track your diet to see if your indigestion is caused by an allergy or intolerance and improve your digestion to beat cramps.
Your cramps can be caused by stress-related stomach pain
When you are suffering from regular or chronic stress, your body reacts in all sorts of strange ways. One way your body might deal with stress is a change in hormones which causes period-like cramping and stomach pain during unusual points in the menstrual cycle.
When your cortisol levels are high, your body is in fight or flight mode, meaning you are more sensitive to pain. High cortisol caused by stressed can result in your body cramping or spasming as you are super tense.
Repetitive stress can have a physical impact on your body. One study found that stress was actually a major cause of minor aches and pains in the body.
You might miss a period but still get cramps or random pain as your muscles are tensed. If stress is the source of your cramping, it could happen in your abdomen and in other parts of your body.
Managing your stress levels is essential to minimise cramps in your abdomen that aren't related to your period. Find out more about managing stress naturally here:
When you are stressed, your body has elevated cortisol levels which can cause cramping and pain. Chronic stress is a common cause of tenseness, muscle pain and cramping. Stress may cause cramps at anytime, anywhere in your body.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can be a reason for your cramps
Cramping is actually just muscles spasms. This means that if your pelvic floor muscles in your lower abdomen are weak or damaged, they may begin to shake and spasm, causing pelvic pain and cramps.
Your pelvic floor muscles should be strengthened like any other muscle. If you have been working on your pelvic floor, recently given birth or been in an accident, you may have damaged the muscles leading to cramping, aches and muscle pain that feels like period pain.
When your pelvic floor muscles are weak or damaged, they will hurt like any other muscle. If you've ever overdone it in the gym and found yourself with stiff, achy, cramping muscles, you'll know what this feels like.
More signs of weak pelvic muscles floor include:
- Leaking urine when you sneeze or cough
- Unable to hold in gas
- Tampons fall out
- Lower back pain
- Heaviness in the pelvis
- Pain during sex
- Inability to orgasm
- Regular UTIs
The good news is that you can strengthen your pelvic floor with exercise. Research into pelvic floor muscles found that pain can be reduced by doing daily exercises for just a few weeks. You should notice that the more you do the exercises, the fewer cramps you get.
You could try taking post-natal classes or doing Kegel exercises at home.
2 sets, 20 x 5 seconds
2 x week
Knee Ball Squeeze
2 sets, 10 x 5 seconds
2 x week
10 x 10 seconds
Happy Baby Yoga Pose
Like all muscles, your pelvic floor muscle may cramp if they are very weak or damaged. These muscles could cause spasm that feel like period cramps but happen without a period. You can try strengthening these muscles to see if it helps stop cramping.
Other common causes of abdominal cramping
Although period cramps are incredibly common, you could be having cramps in your stomach for another reason. Sometimes cramping is totally unrelated to your menstrual cycle and your hormones, so it could happen during your period or at any other time in the month.
There are two other relatively common causes for cramps that have not related to your menstrual cycle which can cause pain in your stomach:
- Cancers and tumours
If you are experiencing period-style pain at other times in the month and therefore have cramps, but no period, you should speak to a medical professional to get a proper diagnosis.
1. Appendicitis can start as minor cramps
Appendicitis happens when your appendix becomes infected, swollen and very painful. It starts with cramp-like pains that can feel very similar to period pain but will worsen.
As you may know, many people have their appendix removed to stop it from rupturing, which is a medical issue and can be very serious. It's unusual for an appendix to rupture without experiencing pain beforehand.
In fact, research conducted in 2020 found that acute appendicitis was the second most common cause of pain in the stomach after period pain. Cramps caused by appendicitis can start slowly and will get progressively worse. You may have cramps for a few hours or days before experiencing severe pain.
How do I know if it is appendicitis cramps?
If you have pain on the right side of your stomach that begin suddenly and only get worse, it could be appendicitis, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Appendicitis cramps will only happen on the right side of your stomach. They can happen close to your belly button and start to spread lower but will remain on the right side. Another way to identify appendicitis cramps is if they feel worse when you move, tense your stomach, or sneeze.
2. Cancer or tumour are rare causes of stomach pain
Another less common cause of stomach cramps is a tumour or cancer. Tumours and cancers are very rare, but they can occur in your reproductive system, stomach, bladder and other organs resulting in pain around your stomach area.
Since you have so many organs in your torso, there are plenty of places to develop cancer. In fact, most common, but not fatal, cancers can grow in your upper body resulting in pain and cramping.
Some of the most common cancers that result in pain and cramping in your torso or abdomen include:
However, the good news is that cancer or tumours are unlikely to be the cause of most stomach cramping. Cancers usually come with many other symptoms, including dramatic or sudden weight loss or gain, feeling rundown, fatigue and sharp pain.
If you are unsure or suspect you could have cancer, speak to a specialist. For more information on common cancers, symptoms and when to seek medical help, check out:
Because you have so many organs in your torso, there are plenty of other causes of cramping in this area. The most common is appendicitis or a type of cancer. Luckily, both are reasonably rare and present with other symptoms making them easy to identify. Always seek medical advice if you think your cramps are caused by an internal organ.
Is my stomach pain cramps or something else?
As we've already mentioned, cramping in your torso could be caused by internal organs. However, you may experience pain in your stomach area that feels like cramps but actually isn't cramping at all.
You have lots of nerves in your abdomen which carry signals to your organs. Your nerves feel pain, meaning any problems in your core could send pain signals. With so many internal organs in the same area, you may experience pain that isn't cramping at all.
Generally, cramps are a dull ache pain, while other pain can be much sharp and more sudden. If you experience a sudden stabbing pain, it's likely not a cramp.
Some common causes for pain in the abdomen that aren't cramps are:
- Kidney stones
- Food poisoning/allergies
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Flu or Virus
If you have pain in your abdomen that doesn't feel like period cramps, it could be caused by any of the reasons listed above. If you think your pain isn't a cramp, you should monitor it closely.
While some conditions such as food allergies, constipation and indigestion can pass without medical intervention, other causes require medical help.
Sometimes, pain is not caused by cramps. Pain in your abdomen can sometimes be a sharp stabbing pain and could be associated with your digestive system, kidneys, gallbladder, bladder or other organs. It may resolve itself, or you could need medical help to monitor your pain closely.
Cramping in your abdomen that doesn't come with a proper period or cramping at other times in the month is actually very typical. There are many reasons women experience pain in the stomach area that aren't a reason to worry.
Your cramps could be menstrual cramps caused by a hormonal imbalance or the early days of pregnancy or miscarriage. Besides, cramps can be caused by indigestion, acid reflux, weak pelvic floor muscles or even organ troubles such as appendicitis.
If you are experiencing cramping, you can treat them like period cramps by applying heat, relaxing and taking pain medication.
However, no cramps or any other kind of pain should interfere with your daily life. If you find your pain is getting worse or are stopping you from living your life, speak to your medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis and finding treatment.