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.
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:
In some cases, early pregnancy may feel as if your period is about to start.
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 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:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a common digestive condition that affects more women than men. Common IBS symptoms include:
Other IBS symptoms include heavy and/or painful periods, pain during sex and urinating frequently. IBS symptoms can worsen during your period.
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:
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:
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:
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:
Other conditions can also cause cramping with no period. This includes:
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:
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:
Although cramping is a common period symptom, you should see your GP if your cramps:
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.
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.
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