What Is Lightning Crotch?

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What Is Lightning Crotch?

Lightning crotch describes a type of sharp pain in the vaginal area that can happen during pregnancy. While lightning crotch—with its tell-tale, sudden "lightning bolt" vaginal pain—is not dangerous, the pain is real (although short-lived).

Referred to colloquially as “lightning crotch,” the pain usually comes out of nowhere and feels similar to a bolt of lightning or a painful tingling feeling in the pelvic area.

Lightning crotch is not a medical term, but many doctors and healthcare professionals recognize it as a common, uncomfortable, but generally harmless symptom of pregnancy. The condition is not considered serious unless it is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, contractions, fever, or dizziness.

As a standalone symptom, lightning crotch also isn’t a sign of impending labor. Thankfully, the symptoms of lightning crotch are usually brief and experienced infrequently.

Symptoms

Symptoms of lightning crotch vary from person to person. Some pregnant people 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. Typically, symptoms may include the following:

  • A sharp feeling like a bolt of electricity, shooting pain, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the vagina, rectum, uterus, and/or pelvic area
  • A "take your breath away" moment of pain
  • Bursts of pain that come on suddenly, without warning, and then disappear
  • Shooting, tingling pain down the legs

Symptoms usually pass as quickly as they arrive but may continue on and off.

When to Call the Doctor

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 recommended 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. Still, if you have any questions or concerns, contact your doctor.

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

Causes of Lightning Crotch

The symptoms of lightning crotch have two main causes:

Pressure

Pressure on the pelvic region from your growing baby, uterus, and placenta can create the pain you are feeling. This pressure may get worse when your baby kicks, moves, or changes position, and drops down further into the pelvis.

Nerve Stimulation

Stimulation of nerve endings in the cervix and uterus by all that added pressure from the growing baby, create those sensations of electricity-like shooting pains and tingling.

Most women experience the symptoms of lightning crotch as their pregnancy progresses, usually feeling it most often in the third trimester, though it is possible to occur 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.

Lightning Crotch Does Not Indicate Impending Labor

Although increased episodes of lightning crotch may indicate that your baby is dropping further down into your pelvis, it is not a sign that labor is imminent, especially if you have no other accompanying symptoms such as backache, menstrual-like cramps, nausea, diarrhea, leaking fluid, and/or regular contractions that increase in frequency and intensity.

Other Causes of Pelvic Pain in Pregnancy

Pelvic discomfort during pregnancy is very common — and you can have more than one kind of pelvic pain or discomfort at once. Other conditions that cause pelvic pain in pregnancy include the following:

Pregnancy-Related Pelvic Girdle Pain

Pregnancy-related pelvic girdle pain (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 is 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

There is no treatment for lightning crotch, aside from delivering the baby. However, the discomfort should go away quickly and on its own (although it may come back). Note that If pain lasts longer than a minute, it may be something other than lightning crotch. Thankfully, these pains do go away after childbirth.

Coping

If you experience lightning crotch very frequently, or if its symptoms are really bothersome, you may be looking for ways to decrease your discomfort. These remedies may provide some relief:

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 gets exacerbated with excess time on your feet.

Change How You Move Your Body

Excess twisting, bending, and lifting during pregnancy may increase the frequency of lightning crotch. Take note of the different ways you move your body throughout your day or as part of your job. Look for patterns and aim to switch things up. Decrease activities that may strain your abdominal area and put excess pressure on your pelvic region.

Get a Massage

A masseuse well-versed in pregnancy discomforts may be able to decrease some of your symptoms, or at least make you feel more relaxed.

Try a Chiropractor

Gentle chiropractic adjustments can help some pregnant people 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 take the pressure off your pelvis 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.

Wear a Pregnancy Support Belt

The downward pressure of your growing 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, which may reduce 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.

A Word From Verywell

It’s important to remember that on its own, lightning crotch is not harmful. Still, lightning crotch can be quite painful, 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.

If your symptoms are bothering you frequently and at-home remedies aren’t helping, definitely bring this up with your doctor or midwife.

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Article Sources
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