Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy

Lightning Crotch

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in our lives, but that doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable or pain-free. Sometimes pregnancy discomforts happen at the most inopportune times and take us totally by surprise. For example, I bet you never expected to experience sudden, lightning-like, shooting pains in your vagina and pelvis during pregnancy.

Referred to colloquially as “lightning crotch,” the pain usually comes out of nowhere, feels similar to a bolt of lightning or a tingling feeling, and is often accompanied by pain.

Though lightning crotch is not a strict medical term, it’s definitely real. Just ask any pregnant mom who has experienced it.

What Is Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy?

Again, “lightning crotch” is not a medical term, but many doctors and healthcare professionals recognize it as a common, potentially very uncomfortable, but generally harmless symptom of pregnancy.

  • Lightning crotch is not considered serious if not accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, contractions, fever, or dizziness.
  • As a standalone symptom, lightning crotch isn’t a sign of impending labor.
  • Lightning crotch is just one of those things that pregnant women have put up with.
  • Thankfully, the symptoms of lightning crotch are usually brief and experienced infrequently.

What Causes Lightning Crotch?

In essence, the symptoms of lightning crotch have two main causes:

  1. Pressure on the pelvic region from your growing baby, uterus, and placenta. This pressure may get worse when baby kicks, moves, or changes position, and drops down further into the pelvis.
  2. Stimulation of nerve endings in the cervix and uterus by all that added pressure, causing those sensations of electricity-like shooting pains and tingling.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of lightning crotch vary from woman to woman. Some women don’t experience lightning crotch at all, some experience it only intermittently, and some experience it very frequently. You may experience lightning crotch more often in one pregnancy, and not at all in another.

What Lightning Crotch Feels Like

  • Symptoms usually come on suddenly and without warning
  • It’s often described as a bolt of electricity, or a pins-and-needles sensation
  • Shooting pains often accompany those “lightning” sensations
  • Symptoms are usually felt in the vagina, but may also be experienced in the rectum, uterus, or general pelvic area
  • Some women have shooting, tingling pain down their legs as well
  • Symptoms usually pass as quickly as they arrive, but may continue on and off

When in Pregnancy Is Lightning Crotch Experienced?

Most women experience the symptoms of lightning crotch as their pregnancies progress, usually in the third trimester, though it is possible to begin to experience them towards the end of the second trimester as well.

Timing depends on how much pressure you are experiencing from your expanding uterus and growing baby, and whether your baby is in a position to stimulate the nerve endings in your cervix and uterus.

Lightning crotch may intensify or become more frequent when your baby moves or when they drop lower into the pelvis at the end of pregnancy.

How Does Lightning Crotch Differ from Other Pregnancy Pelvic Pain?

Lightning crotch usually happens out of the blue, and passes quickly. Many women describe the experience as “taking their breath away.” Pelvic discomfort during pregnancy is very common — and you can have more than one kind of pelvic pain or discomfort at once — but lightning pain is usually differentiated from other pelvic sensations by:

  • The transient nature of the experience (i.e., how quickly it passes)
  • The location: usually low in the vagina or pelvic region
  • The tell-tale “lightning bolt” sensations

Other conditions that cause pelvic pain during pregnancy, and may accompany lightning crotch, include:

Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP)

PGP is caused by stiff pelvic joints during pregnancy. Symptoms include pain over the center of your pelvic bone, between your vagina and anus (perineum), and pain shooting down your thighs. You may also hear clicking in the pelvic region.

Sciatica

Sciatica during pregnancy is also a “shooting pain” sensation caused by pressure on nerve endings by your growing uterus. In this case, it’s the sciatic nerve that is stimulated, causing pain and tingling in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and down the legs.

Round Ligament Pain

Round ligament pain in common in the second and third trimester of pregnancy and is characterized by abdominal discomfort, pulling sensations, and sometimes sharp, shooting pains. These sensations may be experienced in the abdomen, hips, or groin area.

Vulvar Varicosities

Varicose veins don’t just occur in our legs. During pregnancy, you may develop a type of varicose veins in the vagina called vulvar varicosities. Symptoms include pain, heaviness, pressure, and swelling in the vaginal area.

Treatment for Lightning Crotch

In most cases, lightning crotch is a “grin and bear it” type of condition. Though uncomfortable and sometimes painful, the sensations are usually brief and don’t include any lingering affects. That said, if you experience lightning crotch very frequently, or if its symptoms are really bothersome, you may be looking for ways to decrease your discomfort.

In addition to lightning crotch, many of the following treatments work well for other forms of pelvic and vaginal discomfort in pregnancy, including sciatica, round ligament pain, and vulvar varicosities.

Remain Active

Continuing to gently move during pregnancy keeps your joints flexible and decreases the chance of excess weight gain, which can put pressure on your entire body, including your pelvis.

Take Periodic Rests

Although remaining active is helpful, your body also needs extra rest in pregnancy. Standing upright for long periods of time increases downward pelvic pressure; consider staying off your feet more frequently if your lightning crotch or pelvic discomfort gets exacerbated.

Change How You Move Your Body

A Norwegian study found that women who did a lot of twisting, bending, and lifting during pregnancy had increased rates of pelvic pain. Take note of the different ways you move your body throughout your day or as part of your job. Switch things up, and decrease activities that may strain your abdominal area and put excess pressure on your pelvic region.

Get a Massage

Pregnancy is definitely the time to pamper yourself. A masseuse well-versed in pregnancy discomforts may be able to decrease some of your symptoms, or at least make you feel more relaxed and happy.

Try a Chiropractor

Gentle chiropractic adjustments can help many women who experience pelvic or abdominal discomfort. Make sure to see a chiropractor who is experienced in pregnancy, and who works in a gentle, measured manner.

Go For a Swim

The buoyancy of water can really take the pressure off during pregnancy. A nice swim may even help shift your baby’s head so it’s not putting quite so much pressure on your cervix and joints. Give it a try.

Wear a Pregnancy Support Belt

The downward pressure of your blossoming belly can take a toll on your entire body, and contribute to conditions like lightning crotch. A pregnancy support brace or belt helps lift the belly, reducing some of that pressure. There are many different types and brands of pregnancy support belts out there. You can ask your healthcare provider, or even other pregnant friends, for recommendations.

When Does Lightning Crotch End?

Lightning crotch can be a real pain (as well as an unwelcome jolt!), but there is an end in sight. Although symptoms may last up until the very end of pregnancy — and may get progressively worse as your baby grows and puts added pressure on your cervix — symptoms will disappear as soon as your little one is born. Hang in there.

When to Seek Medical Attention

On their own, the symptoms of lightning crotch are nothing to be concerned about. Although sudden and sometimes very uncomfortable, lightning crotch is a normal symptom of pregnancy.

It’s always wise to bring up any new symptoms with your healthcare provider, but if you are experiencing the symptoms of lightning crotch and nothing else, you can wait until your next appointment to discuss this.

However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, along with pelvic pressure, and shooting “electric” pains, contact your healthcare provider ASAP:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Any fluid leaking from your vagina
  • Dizziness, blurred vision
  • Unusual swelling in your extremities
  • Extreme abdominal pain
  • Severe headaches
  • Regular contractions before 37 weeks
  • Fever
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Decreased baby movement

Does Lightning Crotch Predict Labor?

Many moms-to-be wonder if lightning crotch means that labor is coming soon. Although increased episodes of lightning crotch may indicate that your baby is dropping further down into your pelvis, it is not necessarily a sign that labor is imminent, especially if you have no other accompanying symptoms. 

If your lightning crotch symptoms are accompanied by the following symptoms, however, your baby may very well be on the way. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience these symptoms along with lightning crotch:

  • Regular contractions that increase in length, duration, and intensity
  • Backache or menstrual-like cramps
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Loss of your mucous plug
  • Leaking fluid

A Word from Verywell

It can really come as a shock to the system (pun definitely intended!) when you experience the sudden and strange sensations of lightning crotch. It’s important to remember that on its own, lightning crotch is really nothing to sweat about. It’s likely that just as quickly as your lightning crotch episode began, it will be over, and you’ll feel like yourself again … well, like your very pregnant self, that is.

If your symptoms are bothering you frequently and at-home remedies aren’t helping, definitely bring this up with your doctor or midwife. It can seem embarrassing to bring up certain intimate matters, but your healthcare provider has seen it all.

Rest assured, lightning crotch may be one of the weirder, more annoying pregnancy symptoms out there, but it will be a distant remember before you know it.

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