This Is What Could Be Causing Your Cramps When Your Period Is Nowhere In Sight

About a week ago, I was shocked to feel that all-too-familiar burning cramp beginning to bloom in my lower stomach. I deal with cramps on the regular when my period's due, but I was nowhere near my period when these cramps hit me, so I had no idea what was going on. After a few minutes of furiously googling appendicitis symptoms, I was (thankfully) sure that wasn't what was going on. It turns out there are a number of reasons why you could be having cramps, but no period, so if you're worried that your stomach pain might mean you're about to start menstruating completely out of sync with your usual cycle, rest assured, PMS might not be the culprit at all. Cramps don't have to be connected to your period, according to experts.

"Cramping in the lower abdomen (below the belly button) can be a sign or symptom of many things," Dr. Mia Finkelston, a board-certified family physician who treats patients via the telehealth app LiveHealth Online, tells Elite Daily in an email. Usually, she explains, cramps are linked to your period if you're menstruating regularly, but if you know for sure that that's not the case, a number of other health issues could be to blame.

"The problem is that these types of pain can present differently in each person, since our bodies are unique," Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, an evidence-based provider at One Medical, tells Elite Daily. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all symptom or sign for each of these. That's why it's important to see your primary-care provider; they can take a personalized approach to diagnosing you."

It's important that you track your cramps, says Dr. Finkelston, so that your doctor can determine the right tests to order once you're in their office. Keep careful notes about when you're experiencing cramps, as well as any other factors you think might be in play, and bring those notes to your appointment. "You should not have to suffer," Dr. Finkelston says.

Here's what might be causing your cramps if your period is nowhere in sight, according to experts.

You could just be ovulating

Even if you aren't on your period at the exact moment you're dealing with cramps, the pain could still be related to your menstrual cycle, says Dr. Finkelston. "This discomfort may come and go at certain times of the month, or can be more constant, sometimes radiating to the back or thigh," she tells Elite Daily. In fact, Dr. Finkelston says it's pretty common to experience menstrual cramps at other points in your cycle, especially during the one to three days before and after your period.

But even if your time of the month is nowhere in sight, it still could be causing your stomach pain, Dr. Finkelston explains. "Cramping related to menses can happen during ovulation, mid-cycle, and when an egg is released for possible fertilization," she tells Elite Daily.

It might be a UTI

According to Dr. Bhuyan, urinary problems can sometimes be the culprit behind non-period-related cramping. She says your stomach discomfort could be a side effect of a urinary tract infection (UTI), a symptom of kidney stones, or even a sign of bladder cancer. Paying close attention to any other symptoms you're experiencing in conjunction with your cramps could help guide you to the exact condition that's affecting you, Dr. Bhuyan explains. "Kidney stones likely will cause pain in your lower back and possibly result in blood in the urine, while a UTI usually causes burning with urination," she says.

Fill up on some of the foods that help relieve UTI pain like cinnamon, kale, and even garlic tea.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome could be the culprit

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder that can lead to both abdominal cramps and stomach pain, among other health issues. While there's no official cure for IBS, the association says, dietary shifts can sometimes be helpful in easing the discomfort.

If you think IBS may be causing your cramps, it's best to schedule an appointment with your doctor to figure out the proper course of treatment. Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic suggests adding plenty of fiber-rich foods like beans and dried fruits to your meals, and keeping your dairy and caffeine intake to a minimum.

It could just be gas

If you've ever babysat an infant, then you know that a little gassiness can have a huge effect on how comfortable the little one is — but that struggle can last well into your adult years, too. According to Health, having bad gas can cause serious cramping. Basically, when you're bloated, “the air pushes forward and stretches your abdominal wall and makes it hurt,” explains the publication.

Try a couple of yoga poses that help to soothe an upset stomach, and be sure to eat foods that are rich in probiotics to settle your cramps.

You might be extra stressed

Have you ever been about to give a big presentation, only to suddenly feel your stomach cramping up? Long-term stress could be what's causing your abdominal cramps. "When you're afraid or tense, your brain sends messages that the vagus nerve interprets as danger," ER physician Dr. Travis Stork wrote in a Q&A article for Prevention. "This slows digestion and can cause cramping, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms."

If you think stress might be to blame for your cramps, soothe the discomfort by spending some time doing whatever helps you reduce stress, whether it's gentle yoga first thing in the morning, or snuggling with your cat.