What causes cramps, no period and white discharge?

If you’ve missed a period, have cramping and a white discharge from your vagina, you may be pregnant, although there are other causes for these symptoms. 

Vaginal discharge is normal. During your menstrual cycle, your vaginal discharge will usually change in colour and texture. A few days before your period starts, your vaginal discharge may be cloudy or white. This means white vaginal discharge and cramping could mean your period is late.

Cramping without a period could also be a sign of irregular periods, endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

Is it a sign of pregnancy?

White vaginal discharge, cramping and a missed period are all signs of pregnancy, although they can also be symptoms of a late period or other conditions. 

Stomach pain and cramping during pregnancy usually feel different to pain and cramps you experience during your period. This is because pregnancy cramping and stomach pain is caused by ligaments in your lower tummy stretching in preparation for your womb growing in size. You may experience discomfort or pain when this happens, particularly on one side of your lower tummy.

Additional signs of pregnancy include back pain, a blocked nose (nasal congestion) as well as:

  • Dizziness and/or fainting
  • Changes in your breast — this includes: 
    • Achy, tender breasts
    • Darker, larger nipples
  • Gastrointestinal changes — this includes:
    • A metallic taste in your mouth
    • Bloating
    • Changes to your food preferences ie developing cravings or a strong dislike to certain foods
    • Constipation
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headaches, fatigue and/or mood swings
  • Urinating more often
  • Vaginal spotting (implantation bleeding)

In some cases, early pregnancy may feel as if your period is about to start.

Other causes of cramping with no period

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

This occurs when bacteria infects your womb. The infection can spread to your ovaries and fallopian tubes, and usually enters your body as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) via your vagina. You can develop PID more than once. 

When caught early, PID can be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics. However, if PID is not caught early it can damage your reproductive system, causing infertility, scar tissue formation around your fallopian tubes and chronic (long-term) pelvic pain.

Common PID symptoms include: 

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs where tissue similar to the lining of your womb (endometrium) starts to grow elsewhere and attaches to other organs, such as your ovaries and fallopian tubes. 

Getting a diagnosis of endometriosis involves talking to your doctor about symptoms, having a pelvic exam and imaging tests. In some cases, you may also need surgery to confirm a diagnosis. 

Endometriosis symptoms can be relieved with treatment but there is currently no cure. Treatments include hormone therapies (oral contraceptive pill and progestogens), which can reduce bleeding and pain, and in severe cases, surgery. 

Common endometriosis symptoms include: 

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding 
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms — this includes constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal pain, especially just before or during your period
  • Infertility
  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Severe cramping during your periods

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common digestive condition that affects more women than men. Common IBS symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain 
  • Bloating
  • Cramps or stomach pain with no period 
  • Changes in your bowel movements eg constipation
  • Lower back pain
  • White mucus in your stools

Other IBS symptoms include heavy and/or painful periods, pain during sex and urinating frequently. IBS symptoms can worsen during your period. 

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is cancer that starts in the entrance of your womb (cervix). It is most common in women aged 30–45 who are sexually active. 

In the early stages, cervical cancer has no symptoms. Later, symptoms include: 

  • Pain during sex
  • Pelvic pain
  • Vaginal bleeding after sex
  • Vaginal bleeding in between your periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge

Uterine fibroids or polyps

Uterine fibroids and polyps are both noncancerous growths in or on your womb. They can cause heavy and/or painful periods, as well as irregular periods. 

Fibroids and polyps can be small or large and vary in number. Large fibroids can sometimes be detected during a physical examination by your doctor. Symptoms of fibroids include: 

  • Constipation
  • Heavy and/or painful periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain in your abdomen, pelvis and/or lower back
  • Urinating frequently 

Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the period of time before menopause when oestrogen levels in a woman start to decrease. Common symptoms include irregular periods, hot flushes and night sweats.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a hormonal condition that affects the normal function of your ovaries and their ability to release eggs regularly. Symptoms include: 

  • Infertility
  • Irregular, infrequent or no periods
  • Prolonged periods
  • Painful periods
A person holding a packet containing the contraceptive pill

Birth control pills, birth control devices and other medications

Starting or stopping taking birth control pills changes your monthly menstrual cycle. You may have irregular or missed periods for up to six months after you stop taking birth control pills.

The birth control devices, the hormonal intrauterine system (IUS) and non-hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), can both cause cramping, as well as back pain. However, in some women, the IUS can help treat painful periods.

Other medications ie certain antidepressants, blood thinners and steroids can also change your menstrual cycle.

Stress or other lifestyle factors

Changes in your lifestyle or health can also affect your menstrual cycle and/or cause your periods to stop. This includes: 

  • Anxiety and stress — both can stop your periods or cause more painful periods
  • Eating disorders
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Illnesses
  • Too much exercise

Other conditions

Other conditions can also cause cramping with no period. This includes: 

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Miscarriage
  • Ovarian cysts
  • STIs
  • Thyroid problems

Other causes of white discharge

If you have white vaginal discharge but no other symptoms, this is most likely part of your normal menstrual cycle.

However, if the vaginal discharge is not normal for you, then you may have an infection such as bacterial vaginosis or a yeast infection. Other symptoms of an infection include:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain during sex
  • Vaginal itching or irritation

When to seek medical care

If your periods are not regular, see your GP. They can investigate what is causing your irregular periods. 

You should also see your GP if you have abnormal vaginal discharge. This includes: 

  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal discharge alongside vaginal itching, redness or swelling
  • Yellow, green, grey or strongly coloured vaginal discharge

Although cramping is a common period symptom, you should see your GP if your cramps: 

  • Affect only one side of your body
  • Become worse or don’t go away
  • Occur alongside fever or other symptoms

Summary

Although white vaginal discharge and cramping with no period can be signs of pregnancy, there are many other conditions that can cause these symptoms. 

Thick white discharge or foul-smelling vaginal discharge could be a sign of an infection. It is important to get treatment for infections, including STIs, as soon as possible to reduce the risk of complications. 

Cramps FAQs

Why do I have cramps but no period?

Your period may be late or, depending on your other symptoms, you could be pregnant or have one of several other conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), endometriosis, uterine fibroid or polyps, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If you are concerned your cramps aren’t going away or are getting worse, see your GP.

Could I be pregnant if I have cramps but no period?

Yes, you could be pregnant if you have cramps but no period, however there are also other conditions that can cause these symptoms. Additional symptoms of pregnancy include vaginal spotting, white vaginal discharge, backache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, and achy, tender breasts. 

Can early pregnancy feel like period cramps?

In some women, early pregnancy can feel as if their period is about to start. However, cramping in pregnancy often feels slightly different to period cramps as it is caused by ligaments in your lower belly stretching in preparation for your womb growing. Pregnancy cramping therefore usually occurs in your lower belly and on one side at a time.  

Why do I have cramps but no period on birth control?

If you have recently started taking birth control, you may experience mild cramping as your body adjusts. If you are on birth control and have persistent or severe cramping, see your GP.

Why is my period late but pregnancy test negative?

If your period is late but your pregnancy test is negative, your period may be late, which can occur due to a number of different factors including, stress, anxiety, excessive exercise, extreme weight loss and illnesses. Your periods may also be late or irregular if you have uterine fibroids or polyps, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or perimenopause. 

Author Information

Cahoot Care Marketing

Niched in the care sector, Cahoot Care Marketing offers a full range of marketing services for care businesses including: SEO, social media, websites and video marketing, specialising in copywriting and content marketing.

Over the last five years Cahoot Care Marketing has built an experienced team of writers and editors, with broad and deep expertise on a range of care topics. They provide a responsive, efficient and comprehensive service, ensuring content is on brand and in line with relevant medical guidelines.

Their writers and editors include care sector workers, healthcare copywriting specialists and NHS trainers, who thoroughly research all topics using reputable sources including the NHS, NICE, relevant Royal Colleges and medical associations.


The Spire Content Hub project was managed by:

Lux Fatimathas, Editor and Project Manager

Lux has a BSc(Hons) in Neuroscience from UCL, a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and experience as a postdoctoral researcher in developmental biology. She has a clear and extensive understanding of the biological and medical sciences.Having worked in scientific publishing for BioMed Central and as a writer for the UK’s Medical Research Council and the National University of Singapore, she is able to clearly communicate complex concepts.

Alfie Jones, Director — Cahoot Care Marketing

Alfie has a creative writing degree from UCF and initially worked as a carer before supporting his family’s care training business with copywriting and general marketing.He has worked in content marketing and the care sector for over 10 years and overseen a diverse range of care content projects, building a strong team of specialist writers and marketing creatives after founding Cahoot in 2016.