Do Cramps But No Period Mean You're Pregnant? Experts Explain

When your period isn't due but you're still experiencing cramps, it can be frustrating and confusing. We connected with experts to learn some common causes.

Black woman experiencing menstrual cramps and holding a hot water bottle

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According to your calendar, Aunt Flo isn't supposed to arrive for another week or so. Still, you've been feeling something akin to menstrual cramps and you're wondering what's going on. Is your period coming? Are you pregnant? Is something else the matter?

"Cramps but no period" is something most of us have experienced at one time or another. It can be maddening to not know the cause, or what these cramps might mean. If you're trying to conceive or concerned you might be pregnant, you may be wondering if these cramps might mean you are expecting.

We connected with two OB-GYNs to help us understand this frustrating, but common phenomenon, including what might be causing these cramps, how to tell if cramps like these indicate pregnancy, and whether cramps but no period ever necessitate a visit to a healthcare provider.

Key Takeaway

Experiencing cramps without a period is actually fairly common, and there are several explanations including digestive issues, pelvic floor muscle spasms, ovulation, and more. If you find that your cramps are severe and interfering with daily life, or accompanied by other symptoms like blood in your urine or stool, be sure to consult with a health care provider.

Most Common Causes of Cramps Without a Period

It's actually very common to experience cramping in your pelvis, explains Suzy Lipinski, M.D., OB-GYN at Pediatrix Medical Group. Not only that, but these cramps can have any number of causes. "Nerves in the pelvis are not specific to an affected area like they are on your skin," adds Dr. Lipinski. "So pelvic cramping can represent problems in any of the pelvic organs—female organs, bowels, bladder system, or even pelvic floor muscles."

Let's take a look at some of the most common causes of pelvic cramping.

Bowel Cramps

Pelvic pain and cramping often originates from your digestive system, and any number of ailments and conditions can cause these cramps. "One of the most common causes of cramps that don't come from a period are bowel cramps," says Dr. Lipinski. These cramps can come from a viral stomach infection (like norovirus) or food poisoning, she says. Other common causes are digestive conditions like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, or just regular run-of-the-mill indigestion. "Often these causes are accompanied by diarrhea (or constipation) and sometimes nausea/vomiting," describes Dr. Lipinski. "Even severe constipation can cause bad cramping."


Sometimes you may notice pelvic cramping that is not close to your expected period, but rather, is in the middle of your cycle. This is likely from ovulation, which is another typical cause of pelvic cramping. "Sometimes cramping can be due to ovulation,, where your ovaries decide to throw a surprise party where the party favor is an egg," explains Anisha Farishta, M.D., an OB-GYN affiliated with Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. Ovulation pain (known as "mittelschmerz") is usually experienced as a mild, sharp, or twinge-like pain on one side of your pelvis. It can last for a few minutes or for several hours.

Ovarian Cysts

Another potential cause of pelvic cramps are ovarian cysts, says Dr. Farishta. Ovarian cysts are small sacs filled with fluid that form on your ovaries. They are typically not harmful and often cause no symptoms at all. Occasionally, however, they can cause pelvic cramping. These cramps range from a dull ache to a more intense pain, and usually occur on one side of your pelvis. You may also experience bloating and a feeling of pressure. Rarely, ovarian cysts can burst, which may require medical care. It's recommended you seek emergency medical care if you experience intense or sudden abdominal pain along with fever, dizziness, vomiting, and labored breathing.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Spasms

A lesser known, but still relatively common cause of pelvic pain has to do with your pelvic floor, which include the muscles and ligaments that support your uterus, bladder, and bowels. When these muscles begin to spasm, it can feel cramp-like, says Dr. Lipinski, noting that these type of cramps can also be experienced in your lower back or tailbone region. "Pelvic floor muscle spasms can happen after a trauma such as a fall, accident, or assault," she adds. "They can also happen after childbirth."


Endometriosis, which is when uterine tissue begins to grow on other adjacent organs like your ovaries or bowels, is most well-known for causing intensely painful period cramps. But endometriosis can cause serious pain and cramping at other times of the month, even when your period isn't arriving. For example, the condition can cause chronic pelvic and lower back pain, digestive pain, and pain during sex. Endometriosis affects about 11% of people who are of childbearing age.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are common, and tend to occur more often in people who have female anatomy. They can also be a significant source of abdominal pain. UTI pain often feels like pressure and cramping in your lower back or lower pelvic region. As the infection advances, you may also experience pain in your side or in your groin area. Along with the pain, you may experience other UTI symptoms, such as burning when you pee, fever, discolored or bloody urine, and an urge to urinate much more frequently than usual. If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical care—UTIs usually require a course of antibiotics.

Early Pregnancy

Of course, sometimes menstrual-type cramping when your period is expected can be a sign of early pregnancy. "Cramps can also be experienced with early pregnancy, especially if Aunt Flo is late to the party," says Dr. Farishta. And why exactly can a new pregnancy cause these symptoms? "They are usually caused by the stretching and growing uterus as your body prepares for the arrival of your little one," she adds. She adds that it's common for these cramps to be uncomfortable, but they aren't necessarily harmful. "Although often not concerning, if they become more painful or a concern to you, schedule a visit with an OB-GYN," Dr. Farishta recommends.

Menstrual Cramps vs. Early Pregnancy Cramps

If you are trying to conceive and experiencing menstrual type cramps around the time your period is supposed to arrive, you may be desperate to know if your cramps are period-related or signs of a pregnancy. Unfortunately, as much as it would be awesome to know based on symptoms alone, there's really no way to distinguish between the two types of cramps. The best way to know what's going on is to take a pregnancy test, says Dr. Lipinski. "Today's tests are very accurate, even before a missed period," she says.

When Is Cramps Without a Period a Cause for Concern?

In most cases, having cramps but no period is nothing to be worried about, assures Dr. Lipinski. However, in some cases, the cramps—along with other symptoms—may be a more serious matter. "Cramps but no period are a cause for concern if cramps are severe and interfere with normal activities," she describes. Additional symptoms that are concerning include irregular bleeding along with cramps, diarrhea or poop that contains blood, or blood in your pee. If you notice any of these, or have any concerns about your mid-month cramps, be sure to consult with a health care provider.

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  1. National Health Service. Ovulation pain.

  2. ACOG. Ovarian Cysts.

  3. Office on Women's Health. Endometriosis.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Urinary Tract Infections.

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