Movies and TV cover a few weird aspects of pregnancy, like mood swings and strange cravings. There’s nothing like personal experience to teach you that pregnancy is full of curveballs, including aches and pains in parts of your body you didn’t know existed! One rite of passage in pregnancy is feeling sharp, stabbing pain between your legs, calling the doctor in a mild panic, and hearing a laugh on the other end of the phone: “It’s just lightning crotch.”
What Is Lightning Crotch?
Aside from sounding like a particularly edgy band name, lightning crotch is a colloquial term for sharp, brief vaginal pains that are most common in your third trimester. It typically feels like a flash or zap of shooting pain, can be intense enough to make you stop what you’re doing for a moment, but goes away quickly as well (just like the name implies).
Lightning crotch is often caused by nerve irritation. Here’s what could be going on inside you to cause those sharp pains:
- Your baby stretches and literally “gets on your nerves”
- Your baby’s head drops lower, putting pressure on nerves in your cervix
- Your own sudden movement stretches a pelvic ligament too fast
- Your cervix starts to thin and dilate for eventual labor, irritating nerves
Is Lightning Crotch a Sign of Labor?
Your body does a lot to prepare for giving birth. Unfortunately, many of these preparations can be uncomfortable and take place weeks in advance. Lightning crotch isn’t the same as labor contractions, and it doesn’t necessarily mean your baby’s coming soon.
That said, lightning crotch is much more common late in pregnancy, and many causes of that pain are related to your body’s final changes. It might be helpful to think of lightning crotch as a sign you’re in the home stretch.
Should I Be Worried About Lightning Crotch?
Not all pregnant people experience this sensation. Generally, it’s normal to have various kinds of pregnancy pains, and normal to miss some as well. Sharp pain in your vaginal area usually isn’t cause for doctors to worry. The exception is typically if the pain comes with other worrying symptoms as well. Call your doctor if:
- Lightning crotch pains are very frequent, persistent, or interfering with your ability to move around or get through your day
- You’re vomiting
- You have a fever
- You’re leaking vaginal fluid
Pain that doesn’t go away can potentially be related to symphysis pubis dysfunction, a kind of misalignment in your pelvis, that can make movement difficult and warrant medical attention.
How Do I Deal With Lightning Crotch Pain?
It’s easy for your OBGYN or midwife to tell you lightning crotch is normal and nothing to worry about. They’re not the ones living with the pain! You’ve got a few options to relieve some of the pain, and help your body be at its best for birth at the same time!
- Get moving. I know, trust me: This can feel impossible when moving hurts. Try anyway, with something low-key like a super-slow walk around the block, or cat-cow pelvic tilts from yoga. A more flexible pelvis can hurt less, and make labor easier.
- Take a warm bath: Relaxing your muscles can relieve tension and unwanted pressure. Keep the bath warm but not too hot so your core temp doesn’t overheat.
- Wear a belly band: Your abs, obliques, lower back muscles, and pelvic ligaments are working overtime carrying all that front-heavy load. A support band does some of the work for you. (I’ve relied on mine many times!)
The last few weeks of pregnancy can be the most uncomfortable. Labor may not sound so bad if it means relief from pregnancy aches! Do your best to stay active in gentle ways, and take some peace of mind knowing that many pains are a normal part of growing a baby.