Lightning crotch is a painful condition that can occur at any time during pregnancy. While it can come in waves, you’re more likely to experience lightning crotch—or for existing pain to intensify—between 35 weeks and 40 weeks of pregnancy. As an expecting mother, you’re probably searching for reassurance that everything is normal. While it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor if you’re having symptoms or feel that something is abnormal, we can help by reassuring you that lightning crotch is common during pregnancy and there are solutions that can help you get relief. Let’s dive in and learn more about lightning crotch, what causes it, and how to treat it.
What is lightning crotch?
It’s not uncommon to have pelvic pain during pregnancy. But what is lightning crotch, exactly? It’s a general term for the sharp, shooting pains that can stem from pregnancy-related conditions like round ligament pain or symphysis pubis dysfunction. Those shooting pains can be felt in the pelvis, rectum, or vagina area, and can feel like an electrical jolt, which is why it’s called lightning crotch. The discomfort can come in waves and may occur more frequently during the last trimester of pregnancy.
At what stage of pregnancy does lightning crotch start?
Lightning crotch can occur at any time in pregnancy, but it's most common in the third trimester when your baby is bigger and you're getting closer to your due date
Why does lightning crotch happen in pregnancy?
Lightning crotch may be painful, but it’s also a reminder that your baby is getting ready to make his or her entrance into the world. As your baby transitions into a birthing position, more pressure is applied to the lower part of the uterus and the weight of your baby can press on sensitive areas, like nerve endings in the pubic bone. As a result, you can start to feel more pressure in your pelvis and on your bladder. Since your baby is changing positions, the pressure can fluctuate, which is why lightning crotch pain may come and go.
What does lightning crotch feel like?
Lightning crotch can feel like a shooting pain or short-lived pain in the pelvis area during pregnancy. The pain can travel down the inner thigh and is more likely to occur when you’ve been in the same position for an extended period of time. The sensation can last less than a minute and may not occur during every pregnancy. You may have lightning crotch during one pregnancy, but not the next. Mothers who have experienced lightning crotch liken it to being struck by lightning (hence the name!).
Symptoms of lightning crotch in pregnancy
Unfortunately, the cause of lightning crotch can be difficult to pin down. The good news: It doesn’t last forever! Here are some possible causes of lightning crotch:
- Baby movement: When your baby moves, more pressure can be put on a nerve. As a result, you may feel shooting pains in the rectum, pelvis, or vagina area, which would be considered lighting crotch.
- Baby growth: As a baby grows, it usually becomes stronger. A larger baby moving in your stomach can mean more forceful kicks and other movements, resulting in lightning crotch.
- Dropping: As labor approaches, the baby starts to descend into the birth canal. The closer the baby’s head gets to your pelvis, the more likely you are to experience lightning crotch.
- Pelvic bone change: As you get closer to labor time, the baby’s descent can trigger the pelvic bones to pull away and separate. This movement can cause—you guessed it!—lightning crotch pain.
Is lightning crotch normal in early pregnancy?
Lightning crotch is a normal pregnancy symptom and can occur during early pregnancy, but it’s most common during the last four to six weeks. During your pregnancy journey, it’s important to communicate with your doctor. If you experience pain that’s abnormal or occurs often, seek professional advice.
Is lightning crotch a sign of labor?
Typically, no—lightning crotch is not a sign of active labor. However, experiencing lighting crotch pain may indicate that you are getting close to labor. If you’re experiencing lightning crotch symptoms along with other symptoms—like nausea, lower back pain, and regular contractions—you might be in labor.
How early can lightning crotch occur in pregnancy?
You can experience lightning crotch at any time during pregnancy, but it’s more likely to occur toward the end of the second trimester and even more common in the third trimester. This means that you’re more likely to experience lightning crotch betweek 20 weeks and 40 weeks of pregnancy.
There are two things that can impact the timing: The first is the amount of pressure resulting from your uterus expanding, and the second is the position of your baby. If your baby is positioned to stimulate nerve endings in your uterus and cervix, it’s more likely for lightning crotch to occur.
How long should lightning crotch last?
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. Pregnant people may describe lightning crotch pain as electric shocks, shooting pins and needles, or burning twinges. It comes on suddenly and lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. Lightning crotch symptoms may be barely perceptible, or they can be so intense that you double over in pain.
Tips for preventing lightning crotch in pregnancy
If you’re experiencing lightning crotch, there are some at-home remedies that may help you find some relief.
Change positions often
Remember, lightning crotch is caused by your baby moving and growing. The pain may be brought on by your baby putting pressure on a nerve. If you are experiencing shooting pains, try standing up or moving. The goal is to shift the position of your baby.
Wear a pregnancy support band
Abdominal support bands can help take weight off the pelvis during pregnancy. Wearing a support band, such as the V-Sling Pelvic Support Band or 2-in-1 Hip Bandit™ Maternity Belly Band, can help reduce the severity of shooting pains caused by lightning crotch. Abdominal support bands can be worn under or over clothes.
A massage is a great way to enjoy some me-time and let go of your day-to-day stress. While it may not stop or prevent lightning crotch, it can help relax muscles and make your body feel better during pregnancy.
How long after lightning crotch does labor start?
Though painful, lightning crotch is not a sign of labor. However, there is a difference between labor contractions and lightning crotch pain. 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.
What's the difference between lightning crotch pain and other pelvic pain in pregnancy?
There are plenty of aches and pains you’ll feel during pregnancy, especially in the pelvic area where so much of the action is happening. General pelvic pain or discomfort is common, but it's more of an achy, crampy feeling than a sudden shooting sensation like lightning crotch is. There’s also round ligament pain, often described as a pulling sensation in your lower abdomen and pelvic area. Then there’s sciatica, pain in the pelvic and rectum area that usually radiates down the leg. 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. All these types of pain are different from lightning crotch, which refers to the sharp, electric pains you might feel for a few seconds in your nether regions.
When does lightning crotch typically end?
The good news is that this pain comes and goes quickly, and you won’t have to deal with it for long. Though lightning crotch can come on at any point during pregnancy, it is most common in the last 4-6 weeks. It can disappear at any time, and will be resolved completely after birth.
Is lightning crotch normal?
Lightning crotch is a common, uncomfortable, but generally harmless symptom of pregnancy. In general, lightning pain is a normal part of pregnancy and nothing to be too worried about.
When to seek professional help
You should communicate with your care provider if you’re pregnant and experiencing unusual symptoms, including shooting pains or lightning crotch. If you are experiencing lightning crotch symptoms with other symptoms, such as a fever, vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, or a sudden release of fluid from your vagina, you should contact your doctor. You should also contact your provider if you are experiencing consistent contractions.
Lightning crotch can be painful, but it’s usually temporary. You and your baby can have a healthy pregnancy while experiencing lightning crotch. If your symptoms are worsening or you don’t get relief through at-home remedies, you may want to contact your doctor or midwife.
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