You’re feeling crampy, moody and tired. These all-too-familiar feelings come every month with Aunt Flow. But what happens if you have these symptoms without your period? Should you be worried, or is there a simple explanation for what you’re experiencing?
We’re going to share the reasons why you have period symptoms, what to do about it, and when you should see a doctor.
Common Period Symptoms
Some women are lucky enough to experience no symptoms during their periods, but for those that do, the condition is called PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).
Most women have PMS symptoms at least once in their lives.
Common PMS symptoms include:
- Lower back pain
- Aching joints and muscles
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Cravings for sweet or salty foods
- Low libido
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Depressed mood
- Difficulty concentrating
Some women experience severe PMS symptoms, which includes severe mood swings, anxiety and pain.
Doctors are still unsure of what causes PMS, or why some women get it and others don’t. In many cases, PMS runs in the family.
Lifestyle and diet habits may also affect your chances of getting PMS. A lack of calcium, vitamin B6 and magnesium can contribute to the symptoms. Stress, excess caffeine and lack of exercise can also increase your risk of getting PMS.
10 Reasons You Have Period Symptoms, But No Period
You have all the classic PMS symptoms, but there’s no sign of your period in sight. What’s going on?
There are many reasons why you might have period symptoms with no period.
As strange as it sounds, early signs of pregnancy are similar to PMS symptoms:
- Slight cramping
- Breast tenderness
- Food aversions
- Mood swings
These are just a few of the many symptoms you may experience in early pregnancy, and most (if not all) are similar to period symptoms.
If you’re expecting your period, experiencing some symptoms and Aunt Flow is MIA, pregnancy may be the cause.
2. Anxiety and Stress
Are you feeling stressed out, or anxious? Stress, anxiety and tension can alter your body’s hormonal balance, which can lead to a delayed or missed period.
It can also cause “phantom” PMS symptoms around the time you would normally get your period.
If you’ve been stressed out, that may be the cause of your delayed period.
Doctors still don’t know why stress causes late or missed periods. What they do know is that stress suppresses the function of the hypothalamus, which controls the function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland controls the ovaries, adrenal glands and thyroid, which all work together to manage your body’s hormone levels.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, also plays a role in how much progesterone and estrogen your body produces.
3. Sudden Lifestyle or Diet Changes
Making drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle can cause a delayed or missed period, so you might experience PMS symptoms without menstruating.
An inappropriate diet can mess with your cycle, especially if your diet has led to nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can disrupt the body’s natural hormone balance.
Losing or gaining a lot of weight in a short period of time can also throw your cycle off by affecting your body’s natural hormonal functional.
Strenuous exercise can also affect your period by impacting hormone levels in the body.
4. Illness and Medication
If you’re suffering from an illness or taking certain medications, your normal cycle may be disrupted.
Certain chronic illnesses, like diabetes, affects hormonal functions. Anemia, which causes a decrease in red blood cells, may cause light menstrual bleeding.
Polycystic ovarian disease can also cause you to experience PMS symptoms without your period. This condition causes multiple cysts to develop on the ovaries, which can disrupt their normal function.
Certain medications, including hypoglycemic drugs for diabetes and antihypertensive drugs for high blood pressure also affect the body’s hormone function.
As you enter menopause, a decline in hormones can lead to delayed or missed periods. It can also cause you to feel like your period is coming, even though it’s not.
If you’re under the age of 40, premature ovarian failure (or premature menopause) may be to blame. In this case, the ovaries stop functioning before you’re old enough to enter menopause.
Common symptoms of premature menopause include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Fertility issues
- Irregular or missed periods
- Trouble concentrating
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
6. Ectopic Pregnancy
This form of pregnancy can make you feel like you’re getting your period when you’re not. It occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus.
In many ways, an ectopic pregnancy feels just like a normal pregnancy. Common symptoms include:
- Missed period
- Extreme fatigue
- Tenderness in the breasts
- Frequent urination
Ectopic pregnancies can also present their own unique symptoms, including:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Painful sex
- Severe or heavy bleeding
- Shoulder pain
Contraceptive pills can also conflict with your normal cycle, especially if you’ve just started taking them.
Birth control pills alter the body’s hormones to prevent ovulation. These pills contain both estrogen and progesterone, and they prevent estrogen levels from peaking mid-cycle.
Without that essential estrogen boost, the pituitary gland won’t release the other hormones that would otherwise cause the ovaries to release an egg.
The synthetic estrogen in these pills also support the endometrium (or uterine lining), which prevents mid-cycle bleeding.
Birth control can cause you to feel like you’re having your period, but without the bleeding. You’re far more likely to experience PMS symptoms early on when you first start taking the pills. Eventually, the body adapts, and the symptoms disappear.
8. Past Procedures
Past procedures, such as caesarean or abortion, or inflammation in the uterus can cause scarring. If scarring appears on the uterine lining, it becomes an inhospitable environment for a pregnancy.
The end result is a period without any bleeding.
If you’re experiencing period symptoms mid-cycle, ovulation may be the cause. When the egg is released from the fallopian tube, estrogen levels rise.
Higher estrogen levels can cause nausea, breast tenderness, anxiety, headache, depression, cramping and other period-like symptoms.
Your weight may affect the regularity of your menstrual cycle. The female body naturally produces estrogen to create a comfortable environment for the fetus. But if you’re obese or severely overweight, your body may start accumulating fat cells that secrete estrone, a form estrogen.
Estrone mimics pregnancy, and prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg. Even though you’re not ovulating, blood continues to accumulate in the uterine wall. You may also experience period symptoms even though you’re not bleeding.
Because the blood continues to build, periods (when you finally get them) are exceptionally heavy and may go on for a week or more.
Other potential causes for cramping include:
- Appendicitis (requires immediate medical attention)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Interstitial cystitis
- Ovarian cancer
- PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
These causes require medical attention. A doctor will prescribe a treatment to alleviate your symptoms and tackle the problem at the root cause.
6 Things to Do to Alleviate Period Symptoms
Now that you know the potential causes of your period symptoms, you may be wondering what you can do about them.
1. Over-the-Counter Pain Meds
If you’re experiencing cramping, headaches and/or pain in your lower back, over-the-counter pain medications can help give you some relief.
OTC pain meds include:
- Ibuprofen: Advil, Motrin, or a generic option.
- Aspirin: Tylenol, or a generic option.
- Naproxen Sodium: Aleve, or a generic option.
Be sure to follow the dosage directions on the bottle when taking pain medications. Some OTC pain relievers may interact with certain drugs, so check with your doctor before taking pain meds if you’re on medication for another medical condition.
2. Take a Pregnancy Test
If you suspect that pregnancy is the cause of your symptoms, consider taking a pregnancy test. Keep in mind, however, that pregnancy tests are only accurate after your missed period. If you’re expecting your period and it doesn’t arrive, an at-home test can confirm your pregnancy.
If the result is positive, make an appointment to see your doctor right away.
Even if the test is negative, consult with your doctor if you do not get your period. Your physician will help determine the underlying cause of your missed period.
3. Relax and De-stress
Stress, anxiety and tension can delay your period, or cause you to miss it altogether. It can also cause you to feel some PMS symptoms even though your period has not come yet. Taking steps to relax, unwind and de-stress can help normalize your cycle.
How can you relax and de-stress?
- Practice yoga. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress and tension after just a few sessions.
- Meditate: Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while helping you adopt a more positive mindset.
- Epsom Salt Bath: Soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salt can help melt away stress and anxiety. The magnesium sulfate in the salt has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
- Massage: A soothing massage may be all that you need to get rid of the stress you’ve been carrying around. Whether you choose a full-body massage, or just use a neck and shoulder massager, you’ll feel the anxiety and tension disappear after your session.
If stress and anxiety is causing your PMS symptoms and delaying your period, make it a point to de-stress every day.
4. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
The food you eat and your lifestyle will affect your cycle. A poor diet rich in processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle can cause your cycle to be irregular. Irregularity can also cause you to experience PMS symptoms even though your period hasn’t arrived.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight can help normalize your cycle. While it may not bring you immediate relief, it’s a long-term solution that will help prevent symptoms in the future.
A healthy diet includes:
- Healthy fats
- Plenty of fiber
- Lots of green vegetables
- Some fruits
- Fresh fish
- Lean meats
Some things to avoid when eating healthy include:
- Foods you are allergic or sensitive to
- Trans fats or hydrogenated fats
If you’re not sure how to change your diet or what to eat, consult with your physician or a nutritionist for help.
5. Progesterone Cream
If estrogen dominance or menopause is causing you to have period symptoms without your period, progesterone cream may be able to help.
There are natural progesterone creams on the market that can help normalize your cycle or ease your menopause symptoms. Many women prefer natural progesterone, as they have fewer side effects.
Progesterone creams are applied from the day after ovulation until the day before menstruation.
Typically, progesterone creams contain:
- USP Progesterone
- Wild yam extract
- Moisturizing oils
Opt for creams that are paraben- and BPA-free, as these both interfere with hormone production.
If you see USP progesterone listed as an ingredient, it simply means that the progesterone was clinically tested by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Creams with this type of progesterone tend to be the most effective because they contain high quality ingredients.
6. Essential Oils
Essential oils are another great way to help regulate your cycle and relax.
Which essential oils can help?
- Clary sage: Clary sage is believed to naturally balance hormone levels. Apply two drops to the lower abdomen, and then apply a warm compress for five minutes.
- Cypress: Cypress essential oil has been shown to improve circulation, which can help relieve cramps.
- Lavender: The scent of lavender is renowned for its relaxation properties. Apply to the lower abdomen or neck, or diffuse in a diffuser.
When to See a Doctor
If you experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor right away:
- Severe cramping that continues for more than a day
- Heavy bleeding
It’s also important to see your doctor if your period is late or you miss it altogether. Your doctor will help you determine whether it’s pregnancy or an underlying condition that’s causing your symptoms.