Pelvic cramps might seem like a common occurrence for people who have their period – and sometimes it is – but what if they happen when your period is not on the schedule? It could be something as simple as gas or the result of a huge consumption of macaroni and cheese (we’ve all been there). However, abnormal pelvic cramps can also be a sign of a more serious condition.
Whether your pain is severe or not, it is always important to understand what is going on with this sudden pelvic pain. Serious or not, understanding what is going on in your body is always a good step in eradicating pain.
So what makes me have cramps?
There are many conditions that can cause menstrual cramps without actually having a period. When a person complains of pelvic pain and cramping, the two main suspects are usually gynecological or gastrointestinal problems.
What is the difference between gastrointestinal and gynecological? It’s simple: Gastrointestinal cramps are related to your digestive tract and basically mean that your cramps are caused by something going on in your stomach or intestines. Gynecologic, on the other hand, means that the cramps are specific to your uterus, fallopian tubes , vagina, or ovaries.
You could be constipated.
On the gastrointestinal side, your cramps can come from something as simple as a mild blockage. “Constipation can be a major cause of lower abdominal or pelvic cramps.” So, if you haven’t been to the bathroom in a while, this might be your answer. Cramping and constipation in general can also be caused by dehydration. So be sure to drink enough water throughout the day.
But, of course, there is also a more concerning side of the gastrointestinal spectrum. “It could also be something bigger, like irritable bowel syndrome.”
IBS is a common chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and can be managed over time. Symptoms include cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. If you suspect that your cramps may be caused by IBS and that they are getting worse on a regular basis, you should see a doctor.
Cramping can also be a sign of an underlying infection.
Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs when bacteria spread from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries, usually as a result of sexual transmission. The symptoms are cramping, but there are also other telltale signs such as heavy vaginal discharge , uterine bleeding, fever, pain during intercourse, and painful urination. If you check all or some of these boxes, you should go to your gynecologist for an exam.
Your period may be coming soon.
Even if your period hasn’t come yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience pelvic cramps caused by your menstrual cycle. Period cramps often start 24 to 48 hours before the bleeding starts, so check where you are in your cycle – it could just mean your period is about to come.
Rupture of an ovarian cyst can also cause cramps.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if an ovarian cyst ruptures, it can cause cramps in the lower abdomen. An ovarian cyst is a sac filled with fluid that can be on or in the ovaries and which most often does not cause discomfort. But if it does break out, the problem may be more serious.
Sometimes a ruptured ovarian cyst can go unnoticed, but you may also experience cramps on either side of your abdomen, depending on which ovary the cyst was on or in.
After an ovarian cyst ruptures, bleeding can occur. If you think this has happened to you, and your pain does not go away with over-the-counter pain relievers, quickly make an appointment with a doctor for a check-up.
You may be pregnant or have pregnancy problems.
Having period-like cramps when you don’t have your period can also be an early sign of pregnancy. Mild uterine cramps are common in pregnant women.
On the other hand, your cramps could signify an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere in your fallopian tubes or in your abdomen instead of the lining of your uterus and it begins to develop. In this case, the pregnancy cannot continue normally, and you will need to see a doctor immediately for the next steps.
Endometriosis also causes abdominal cramps.
If your cramps are much worse than your usual period, you may have endometriosis , an “often painful disorder in which tissue similar to that which normally lines the inside of your uterus – the endometrium – grows inside your uterus . outside of your uterus, ”according to the Mayo Clinic. Besides pelvic cramps, lower back and abdominal pain are also symptoms of endometriosis. If you think you have this condition, you should visit your gynecologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
When should I seek medical help?
“The take-home message is that if you have cramps that are not relieved by good ol ‘Motrin or Ibuprofen, or any nonsteroidal medication of your choice, you should see your gynecologist.” If you have severe cramps that won’t go away with basic remedies , it’s time to call a professional to figure out what’s going on.