It can be difficult to tell the exact reason for cramps that feel like a menstrual period but that does not mean one should dismiss the pain. Granted, cramps are most commonly caused by your periods but pelvic pain can also be a sign of ovulation or a gastrointestinal issue such as food intolerance. It affects the lowest part of the abdomen; between the belly button and the groin.

Here are some reasons for period pain while not on your period:

  1. Ovulation

In the middle of your menstrual cycle, the release of an egg from the follicle within the ovary takes place. It causes pain that feels like a sharp or dull cramp and happens on the side of the abdomen where the ovary is releasing the egg. This happens 10-16 days before the start of your period.

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2. Ovarian cyst

This will most likely not cause any symptoms but if they are large, you will feel a dull or sharp pain on your side of the pelvis or abdomen. You may also feel bloated in your lower  abdomen. However, if the cyst ruptures, you will feel a sudden sharp pain and it is best to see a doctor to ascertain the cause for your pain.

3. Ovarian cancer

It is a rare cause of pain but signs such as bloating, pelvic pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency to help yourself should alarm you to go for checkup.

4. Pregnancy

The sensation is different from person to person but in most cases they feel like mild cramps, usually dull aching or light twinges. Other people describe the sensation  as prickling, tingling or pulling. This is referred to as implantation cramping which occurs when the fertilized egg travels down to the uterus and attaches itself to the uterine wall.

The pain happens around the time of the expected period. There are no major signs when it comes to pregnancy pain apart from missing your period. However, spotting might occur at the time of implantation.

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5. Ectopic pregnancy

This occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. Warning signs include light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain. If it ruptures, severe back pains are felt and they spread at the back. An ectopic pregnancy can be fatal if left to grow due to damage of nearby organs and loss of blood. To prevent complications, treatment is required with surgery being the preferred treatment method for late stage ectopic pregnancy.

6. Appendicitis

This is a condition that occurs when the appendix(a narrow finger shaped pouch that projects out of the colon) becomes inflamed and filled with pus. It causes abdominal pain that starts in the middle to the lower right side of the abdomen.

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7. Endometriosis

This is a women’s disorder where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found elsewhere in the body – mainly in the abdominal cavity thus causing chronic pelvic pain, heavy bleeding and infertility. It is clinically described as a chronic illness but not a terminal illness – where life threatening complications have not set in. It can also cause painful bowel movements, or pain during sex in some women.

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8. Pelvic inflammatory disease(PID)

PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or varies which normally occurs due to an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Cramping is a common symptom of PID and if left unchecked it could lead to infertility as the bacteria affects one's reproductive organs.

9. Urinary Tract Infections(UTIs)

Pelvic cramping can also be a sign of UTIs. If the cramps are accompanied by pain, burning or bleeding during urination or if the frequency and urgency of your bathroom breaks have increased, it could indicate a UTI. Ensure you seek medical advice as soon as possible as it could lead to a life-threatening kidney infection.

Bottom line

In case of any persistent abdominal pain, seek  immediate medical attention. Do  not assume and do an over the counter treatment.  

Feature photo: Beumont Health

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