What on Earth is lightning crotch? And how do I know if I have it when I’m pregnant?
Pregnancy comes with its fair share of awful side effects. I guess that is part of the price you have to pay to bring a new life into this world.
You may think you know all there is to know about pregnancy, but you probably don’t know about lightning crotch. You don’t find lightning crotch — it finds you. If you are suffering from shooting pains “down there,” you may be experiencing it.
Figuring out if lightning crotch is a cause for your shooting pains can put your mind at ease and assure you that you aren’t crazy. There actually is a technical term for that strange pain you are experiencing.
What Is Lightning Crotch?
Lightning crotch is a nickname given to describe sudden, sharp pains that occur deep in your pelvis or vaginal area.
You may have heard of lightning pain before, as this is sharp pain that can occur anywhere in the body. But when you are pregnant, you will most likely experience lightning pain in your pelvic or vaginal area — lightning crotch.
This pain is rightfully nicknamed as it feels like a lightning strike radiating through your nether region and possibly down your legs. The pain is intense but quick. You may experience several strikes in a row, but it does not persist for extended periods of time.
Most likely you will experience this pain when you make a sudden movement or reposition yourself.
Is Lightning Crotch Normal?
During your pregnancy, you probably experience numerous aches and pains, and every single one has you wondering if something else is wrong.
But don’t worry about lightning crotch — it’s perfectly normal. It happens as you become closer to delivering your baby.
It is possible a pregnant woman may experience lightning crotch weeks before delivery. If you are one of these unlucky expectant mothers, hang in there!
Other than being uncomfortable, lightning crotch alone does not possess any harmful risks for you or your baby.
Call Your Doctor
If your lightning pain is accompanied by a fever, vaginal bleeding, or abnormal discharge, contact your doctor.
You should be especially cautious with lightning crotch if you experience this pain before you are 37 weeks pregnant.
If your lightning crotch seems to interfere with your daily activities, it is advised you consult your doctor.
Editor's Note:Dr. Njoud Jweihan, MD
What Causes Lightning Crotch?
Lightning pain occurs as your baby makes its way into the birthing position. When the baby is head down at the lower part of the uterus this pushes down on the pelvic and bladder region. The pressure and position of your baby as he or she descends into the birth canal can cause the onset of lightning pain to occur.
The good news with lightning pain is that it is an indicator labor is near. This does not mean labor is going to happen in the next day or so. Although it could, lightning pain can persist for weeks before the onset of labor.
Your baby will change positions, and maybe the lightning pain is caused by your baby putting pressure on nerve endings in the pelvis area. The pain can also be a result of your baby’s head pushing directly against your cervix (1).
Other causes for lightning crotch include:
- Magnesium deficiency: It’s difficult for all individuals to get an adequate supply of magnesium. It is especially hard for a pregnant mother to get enough for two. Magnesium is helpful for proper nerve function, and a deficiency can intensify the pain associated with lightning crotch.Although many prenatal vitamins contain magnesium, sometimes the amount is not enough. Talk to your doctor about taking magnesium supplements and other sources such as coconut water and electrolyte-containing sports drinks.
Editor's Note:Dr. Njoud Jweihan, MD
- Varicose veins: We all know what varicose veins look like on the legs, but it’s possible to get them in the vaginal and rectal area when pregnant too. The presence of these can cause tingling pelvic pain that resembles the pain associated with lightning crotch.
- Round ligament pain: Your round ligaments support your pelvis and uterus. They have to stretch during your pregnancy to accommodate your growing baby. Some women have higher hormone levels that can cause their round ligaments to stretch more than usual, and this overstretching can lead to lightning crotch.
How To Keep Yourself Comfortable
The ultimate struggle when pregnant is finding any possible way to keep yourself comfortable. This is no easy task, but there are specific things you can do to help ease a little bit of your pain.
None of the following can directly “save” you from experiencing lightning crotch, but they can make you more comfortable during your pregnancy and possibly reduce the intensity of your pain.
- Exercise: If you stay active during your pregnancy it will help you feel better about yourself, keep a couple of those pounds off, and help your comfort levels. You can benefit from even a short walk every day. This will help encourage your baby to move into a proper birthing position, hopefully not pinching any nerves.
- Yoga: The stretching that is accompanied by yoga will work wonders on your body and help keep your joints open and flexible. Another benefit of yoga is that it will teach you beneficial breathing techniques you can use when you are in labor to help you relax and push through contractions. Avoid exercises that can stretch your round ligaments further and cause more discomfort.
- Swimming: Lightning crotch usually occurs from the pain of your baby’s head pushing against your cervix. Swimming can help your body become weightless and ease some of that pressure. You don’t have to get too crazy in the pool, but an occasional swim will do your body good.
- Limit certain movements: Lightning crotch can be onset by sudden movements. If you find you are doing a lot of twisting, bending, or lifting, you probably need to cut back.
- Massage: Prenatal massage is designed for women during pregnancy. You have a lot of pressure in your sacral area, and a massage therapist can focus on sore muscles in that area that may be pulling on nerves and intensifying your lightning pain.
- Wear a support brace: A supportive brace will help lift your belly and take some of that pressure off of your hips, joints, and even your cervix.
- Chiropractic adjustments: A chiropractic adjustment can help release spine subluxations that can compress your nerves. Nerves play an integral part in the intensity of lightning pain, so this adjustment could provide you the relief you need.
- Adjusting posture: It’s possible your posture can be causing more weight to be distributed in the wrong areas. It’s difficult to have proper posture when pregnant, but the slightest adjustment could be the difference between no pain and intense pain.
- Rest: Yes, exercise is beneficial to you when you are pregnant, but it is also important to get a great deal of rest. It is likely the extra weight you are carrying is taking a toll on your body, and rest can give your body a chance to recover. Not to mention, resting can take some of that pressure off of your cervix. Taking a quick warm bath or applying a warm towel on the area has also been noted to relieve pain. Make sure to avoid hot water and spending too much time in humid and warm environments.
You should always seek confirmation from your doctor before partaking in new activities or medical practices when you are pregnant. If something was considered safe earlier on in your pregnancy, you should still ask again. As your pregnancy progresses, your limitations increase.
Symptoms Of Lightning Crotch
Earlier on in your pregnancy, you may experience pain that resembles lightning crotch, but lightning crotch does not usually arise until your baby makes his or her way into the birthing position.
You may have experienced shooting pains as a result of your baby kicking or elbowing you. These pains could be related to lightning crotch, and they will probably intensify as your due date draws closer.
Numerous other symptoms can arise when you are experiencing lightning crotch, including:
- Sharp pains in your rectum, cervix, or vulva.
- Feelings of constipation.
- Frequent urination.
- Inability to hold your urine as well as before becoming pregnant.
- Decreased heartburn.
- The ability to take deep breaths easier.
All of these symptoms usually present themselves once your baby has moved into the proper birthing position. The reason they are associated with lightning crotch is that it usually begins once your baby is in that birthing position.
A woman may experience a type of lightning crotch at other times during her pregnancy and think nothing of it. The pain intensifies and becomes very pronounced during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
What Can It Mean?
Lightning crotch is a super nagging pain that doesn’t serve a purpose. It isn’t like the pain associated with intense contractions that will reward you with a beautiful baby in the end. Why does pregnancy have to unearth the craziest symptoms for a woman just trying to survive the journey to motherhood!?
While lightning crotch doesn’t serve a purpose when it comes to getting your baby into this world, it can provide you with a little bit of insight.
- Stretching baby: When you experience your lightning pain it could be from your baby stretching and irritating the nerves inside your uterus. As your baby grows, these movements become harder for them to make and your pain becomes more intense.
- The baby dropped: Lightning pain and a dropped baby to the lower pelvic region seem to go hand in hand. Chances are, if you are experiencing lightning pain, your baby has transitioned into the birthing position.
- Changed cervix: Some women experience lightning pain once their cervix begins dilating. The pressure from your baby’s head is also a culprit of this.
- Labor in the near future: Lightning crotch is known to be an early symptom of the onset of labor because as you see above, lightning crotch can be caused by your baby dropping and your cervix dilating. Both of these things occur in the days leading up to labor (2).
If your pain is accompanied by lower back pain, nausea, regular contractions, or a bloody discharge make sure to let your doctor know as this can mean you are in labor.
Editor's Note:Dr. Njoud Jweihan, MD
The Bottom Line
Lightning crotch is not a fun thing to experience, but it is normal. The pain will come and go as quickly as an actual lightning strike.
You usually will make it through your pregnancy without experiencing these shooting pains until the 37th week. If you have a fever, bleeding, or abnormal discharge accompanied by lightning pain, you should contact your doctor.
Just when you think you have experienced it all, pregnancy always seems to find a new ache and pain to add to your plate.
The good news with lightning pain is that it usually is not a cause for concern, and it can mean you’re even closer to meeting your beautiful baby. Hang in there, mama!