Most people who get periods experience some cramping and pain in the few days before their period begins and into the first few days of menstruation. But can you experience cramps a week before your period? The short answer is yes, it’s possible, but cramps in that timeframe may be caused by something else.
Here we’ll talk about what cramps a week before your period may mean, and most importantly, how you can get some relief.
What causes cramps?
If you’ve experienced cramps yourself, you know them when you feel them. It can feel like squeezing or intense pressure in your pelvic area, similar to a mild contraction. The medical term for period cramps is dysmenorrhea. Every month, the lining of your uterus sheds and passes through your vagina.
Some experience intense cramping, enough to interfere with everyday activities, and others will deal with minor cramps monthly. Compounds called prostaglandins, which behave like — but are not — hormones can cause pain and inflammation as your uterus contracts, resulting in cramps.
Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can vary widely by person, and while it’s not totally common, changes in estrogen and progesterone can cause cramping as much as a week before your period begins.
Cramps a week before your period may also be caused by other things. Here we’ll discuss what else may be causing early cramps.
The World Health Organization says that endometriosis affects as many as
Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can affect the tissue, causing pain and inflammation as much as a week before the period should begin. Symptoms of endometriosis include, but aren’t limited to:
- heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle
- cramps for as much as 2 weeks before menstruation
- pain during bowel movements or urination
Uterine fibroids are abnormal growths on your uterus. Some people who experience fibroids have no symptoms, and others may feel pain or discomfort. Symptoms may include:
- painful cramping
- discomfort of pain during intercourse
- pressure or pain in your pelvis
- irregular or heavy bleeding
Ovarian cysts develop on an ovary. Most cysts will go away without treatment, though you may experience certain side effects while the cyst is present. These side effects include:
- feeling full or bloated
- pressure or cramping in your pelvis
Call your doctor if you experience vomiting, fever, or severe pelvic pain.
If sperm fertilizes an egg, it’s possible to feel cramping when an egg implants into your uterine wall. This usually happens close to the time a period is expected, but depending on when ovulation and conception occurred, the implantation cramping could happen as much as a week before your period.
Other symptoms of implantation can include spotting or bleeding.
Some feel nothing during ovulation, and others will feel a twinge of cramping when an egg is released. You may also see discharge or spotting accompany ovulation pain.
Certain lifestyle changes and other factors may cause your period to come early. If your period is early, you may think you’re having cramps a week in advance, but it’s actually closer to the start of your cycle. You will likely experience other PMS symptoms too, like headache or fatigue.
Factors that may cause a period to arrive early include:
- weight loss
- intense exercise
Menstrual cramps can be disruptive and debilitating at times, especially when they occur for as long as a week before your menstrual cycle arrives. Here are some ways you can relieve cramps and pain using home remedies for period relief.
- Use a heating pad or take a hot bath, which helps relax your uterine muscles.
- Take a pain reliever like ibuprofen, or something specifically designed for menstrual cramps, like Midol.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid excess salt, alcohol, and caffeine — anything dehydrating can worsen cramps.
- Certain supplements like calcium, magnesium, and zinc may ease cramps.
- Try acupressure.
- Try yoga or other gentle exercise, which can relax your uterine muscles.
If you’re not sure if what you’re experiencing is routine menstrual pain or something else, or you have other concerning symptoms, talk with a medical professional. Make sure to connect with a doctor if your pain is causing a fever or vomiting, or if pain is so severe it’s making you miss school, work, or other events.
Period cramps are caused by prostaglandins, which help your uterus contract but also cause cramping and pain in your pelvis. It’s possible to experience period cramps a week before your menstrual cycle is set to arrive, but these pelvic cramps could also be caused by something else like endometriosis, fibroids, or ovulation pain.