That sudden, sharp vaginal or pelvic pain you may feel late in pregnancy is called Lightning Crotch. It’s not serious or a sign of labor. It may be due to the baby putting pressure on the nerves around the lower part of your uterus. If it lasts more than a few seconds, be sure to tell your doctor as it could signal something more serious.
Symptoms of lightning crotch during pregnancy
Lightning crotch can feel a little different from person to person, but most often this pregnancy symptom manifests as:
- Sharp, shooting pain in the vagina or pelvic area that lasts only for a moment
- Stinging or a pins-and-needles sensation in the same region
- Brief but intense pelvic pain that’s stronger and shorter than menstrual cramps
What causes lightning crotch?
Experts think this pain is related to your baby growing larger and dropping down into your pelvis before birth (a process called engagement). With your baby’s head lower in your pelvis, there’s more pressure on your cervix and the nerves around the lower part of the uterus.
What can you do for relief?
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do when Lightning crotch hits, other than grin and bear it. Here are a couple of things you can try for relief:
- Change positions in an effort to get baby off your nerves (literally) — so stand up if you’re lying down or sitting, or sit down if you’ve been standing.
- Wear a belly support garment or belt to help lighten the load on your pelvis.
How is lightning crotch different from other pelvic pain during pregnancy?
While there are different types of pelvic pain in pregnancy, they can feel similar. Lightning crotch pain can feel a lot like round ligament pain but there are key differences:
- Round ligament pain is more common in the second trimester as your uterus grows, but lightning crotch pain generally happens at the end of the third trimester.
- Round ligament pain may feel like it’s radiating out towards your hip bones, and can vary from a sharp pain to a dull ache. Lightning crotch usually feels like a sharp pain or electric jolt in the pelvis or vagina.
Other back pain or nerve-related pain can also feel similar, especially sciatica. The sciatic nerve goes from the lower back down the legs via the pelvis, and when it gets pinched you can also have shooting nerve pain. Here’s how to tell the difference:
- Sciatica can happen anytime during pregnancy, while lightning crotch pain happens late in the third trimester.
- You can feel sciatica anywhere along the sciatic nerve (back, buttocks, and leg) and it’s usually one side. You won’t feel it in the groin or vagina like lightning crotch.
Is lightning crotch a sign of labor?
Lightning crotch pain doesn’t mean you’re going into labor. That said, it can seem like labor pain, especially if it’s your first pregnancy. Here are the main differences:
- Labor contractions are regular and repeating, and get closer together over time. Lightning crotch is random.
- Labor often comes with menstrual-type lower back ache or pain which lasts a long time.
Is lightning crotch dangerous?
Though lightning crotch can be jolting and disruptive, it’s usually nothing to worry about. If the pain lasts more than a minute at a time or you have any other symptoms like dizziness, bleeding or other fluid from the vagina, fever, bad headaches, call your doctor right away. These could be a sign of something serious.
Are there ways to prevent lightning crotch?
- Wear a supportive belly band to reduce the pressure on your lower uterus.
- Stay active and take plenty of desk breaks. Walking and swimming are good options.
- Try a warm bath or massage to relax your muscles and joints.
- Shift your position when you feel a jolt.
The good news is that this pain comes and goes quickly, and you won’t have to deal with it for long.