Experiencing menstrual cramps for the past couple of days, can get annoying, disconcerting, and even frustrating, when there seems to be no sign of a period. Women who expect their periods to arrive on time, are often baffled when they experience all the period-like symptoms, only without a period!
Cramping is the most common premenstrual symptom experienced by women, which marks the onset of menses.
During menstruation, the uterine muscles contract in order to expel the uterine lining. Hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins trigger uterine muscle contraction, thereby resulting in cramping and pain. Menstrual cramps are characterized by a dull or throbbing pain in the lower abdomen, which travels to lower back and thighs.
Often, this pain is painful enough to interfere with normal activities of the individual. In most cases, cramping is a sign that the period is around the corner. However, sometimes, even after cramping for a week or two, there is no sign of a period. Why is this so?
Could It Be An Early Sign of Pregnancy?
The most common reason for period cramps with no period is pregnancy. If a pregnancy has occurred, the body takes various steps to prepare for the growing fetus. After the implantation, the uterus begins to prepare for the pregnancy, and uterine muscles contract to accommodate the growing fetus. This is also termed as implantation cramping. Implantation bleeding or spotting may also be experienced along with cramping. Sore, enlarged breasts, sharp sense of smell, darkening of areolas, morning sickness, etc. are a few other pregnancy symptoms to watch out for, in case you experience cramps but no period. It is therefore necessary to confirm the possibility of pregnancy. A home pregnancy test will help confirm the pregnancy. Preferably take the test one day after the missed period, to get accurate results.
Often women take pregnancy tests, only to end up with negative results, even if they are pregnant. The cramping, other signs of pregnancy, and missed period, will cause even more confusion in one's mind. There are few points to remember while taking a pregnancy test, so as to avoid an inaccurate test result. Taking the test too early may result in false result. Moreover, to avoid an incorrect result, it is best to take the first urine sample of the day, wherein the concentration of HCG hormone is at its highest. Moreover, read the instructions clearly and make sure you understand how to check for a positive pregnancy.
Other Causes of Cramping but no Period
The prospect of being pregnant is often the first thing that comes to one's mind, when we talk about cramping and missed period. While this thought may bring hope to some women, others might be freaked out by just the thought of it! However, before you lose your precious sleep wondering if you are pregnant or not, it's important to understand that besides pregnancy, there are various other reasons that could cause cramps but no period.
➟ Just a late period...
You may have had regular periods all your life, however, this may be one such occasion, wherein you are ovulating late. One may experience cramping even at the time of ovulation, which may give you the impression that your periods are around the corner, however, it still has a good 2 weeks before it occurs. So cramps with no periods may be because of a late period. If your next few periods are irregular, make sure you visit your obstetrician soon. Simple miscalculation of the menstrual cycle dates can also lead one to believe the period is late.
➟ Physical or Mental Stress
Being drained out emotionally or dealing with some life-changing decisions can affect one's menstrual cycle. Mostly relocating, family problems, loss of loved ones, etc. can cause a lot of stress on the body. Stress can result in cramping and in turn affects the menstrual cycle. Vigorous physical exercises or training can also result in cramping and missed periods.
When the endometrium lining the uterus, begins to grow outside the uterus, the condition is termed as endometriosis. Endometriosis can cause late periods. Another symptom associated with endometriosis is cramping which starts one to two weeks before the actual menstrual flow. This may give the person the impression of cramping but no period.
Perimenopause is the phase just before menopause, wherein a woman's ovaries release eggs during a few cycles, which means irregular ovulation takes place. This results in a late or missed period, which can be accompanied with symptoms like cramping, hot flashes, sleep problems, etc. Peri-menopause may begin as early as in the thirties or forties. An FSH test will help determine whether one is going through peri-menopause or not.
➟ Ectopic pregnancy
While mild cramping is a symptom of pregnancy, severe cramps with no period, can be an indicator of ectopic pregnancy. However, most of the time, one cannot differentiate between pregnancy cramping and ectopic pregnancy cramping. Since the other symptoms accompanying cramping are very similar to the normal symptoms of pregnancy, like nausea, breast tenderness, frequent urination, etc. it is difficult to differentiate between the two. Vaginal bleeding is a sign of ectopic pregnancy, however, can also be often confused with spotting. Most women experience ectopic pregnancy-related symptoms two weeks after the missed period.
Certain illnesses and their medications can disturb the menstrual cycle and delay it by a few weeks. Eating disorders such as obesity and anorexia, also contribute to irregular menstrual cycle. Other diseases which can contribute to irregular menses are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or ovarian cyst, Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), bulimia, etc.
There are so many reasons for cramps with no period, however, the primary cause can vary from individual to individual. Better than self diagnosis, it is wise to make an appointment with the obstetrician, who will be able to narrow down the exact cause.