Lightning crotch: What to know about shooting pain during pregnancy
Lightning crotch is the colloquial term for shooting pain in the crotch, which is most likely to occur during pregnancy. It can also occur if a person is not pregnant, but will then have different causes.
In this article, learn about the causes and symptoms of lightning crotch, as well as when to see a doctor.
What is lightning crotch?
Lightning crotch feels like an electrical bolt of pain in the vagina, rectum, or pelvis.
Lightning crotch refers to sharp or shooting pain in the vagina, rectum, or pelvis. It usually occurs during pregnancy.
The pain comes on suddenly and can stop someone in their tracks.
Some people describe the pain as feeling like an electrical bolt or zap from the inside, which is where the condition gets its name.
The pain can be sporadic and varies between individuals. Many people do not experience this symptom at all during pregnancy. For those who do, lightning crotch seems to occur more often toward the end of pregnancy.
Doctors are unsure why lightning crotch develops in some people but not others. However, some potential causes include:
The movement of a baby stretching, turning, or kicking during pregnancy can put pressure on a nerve.
This can cause sudden, sharp pain in the pelvis, vagina, or rectum.
As the baby grows, the force behind the movements gets stronger, which may cause an increase in pain.
Dropping is when the baby moves into the lower part of the uterus in preparation for labor.
The baby's head may push on the pelvic floor and bladder, putting pressure on the nerve endings. The pressure on the nerves can cause sharp twinges of pain.
Round ligament pain
A pair of thick ligaments supports the uterus. During pregnancy, the growing belly puts extra pressure on these ligaments, which causes them to stretch and become thin.
Moving in a certain way may cause the ligaments to stretch too far or too fast, causing sudden, sharp pain.
Causes not relating to pregnancy
Stabbing pains in the pelvic area may also be due to:
- menstrual cramps
- a ruptured cyst
- mittelschmerz, or pain during ovulation
- bladder infections
A prenatal massage can help relax the muscles and calm aches and pains.
Lightning crotch is not always preventable, especially when the position of the baby in the uterus may be the cause.
Fortunately, several home remedies may help to relieve pelvic pain. It may take some trial and error to determine what works best for each person, especially if the pain comes on suddenly or unexpectedly.
Possible home remedies include the following:
As the baby may be putting pressure on a nerve, it might help to stand up or move.
Changing positions may cause the baby to shift and take pressure off a nerve.
Taking a warm bath
A warm bath can relieve many discomforts during pregnancy, including stress and body aches. The warm water may also help to ease round ligament pain.
It is crucial to ensure that the water is not too hot, as this could raise the body's core temperature too much.
Having a prenatal massage
Having a prenatal massage may not prevent lightning crotch, but massages can relax the muscles and may ease overall aches and pains during pregnancy.
It is essential to go to an experienced, certified massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage.
Wearing an abdominal support band
Abdominal or belly support garments made especially for pregnancy are available in many stores and online. They help by taking some weight off the pelvis.
They may also relieve some of the pressure on the nerves and ease the sharp, shooting pains of lightning crotch.
People can wear these belts under or over their clothes.
Is lightning crotch a sign of labor?
Lightning crotch may occur on and off throughout pregnancy, but it appears to be more common in the last trimester.
People who frequently experience the condition may find that their symptoms get worse as the baby's head drops into the pelvis.
Lightning crotch can be a sign that labor is getting close, but it is not necessarily a sign of active labor.
However, if the condition occurs alongside other signs, it might signify the start of labor. Signs of labor include:
- lower back pain
- regular contractions
- blood-tinged vaginal discharge
When to see a doctor
Lightning crotch occurs more often in the last trimester of pregnancy.
Some aches and pains are common during pregnancy, so it can be hard to know when to see a doctor.
It is essential to see a doctor if sharp, shooting pains occur in the crotch alongside other symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding or fever. The doctor will need to check for infection or other complications.
It is also best to speak to a doctor or midwife if symptoms of lightning crotch occur with other signs of labor.
Usually, lightning crotch pain is brief. If a person's pain becomes severe or does not go away, they should seek medical advice as soon as possible.
While it is not usually possible to prevent lightning crotch, the pain should be temporary and will resolve following the birth.