What Is Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy and What Causes It?

Pregnancy is a journey filled with many unexpected twists and turns. One such surprising symptom that some encounter is known as “lightning crotch.” So, what does lightning crotch mean, and why does it occur during pregnancy? We’ll help shed some light on these aches and pains you may experience during pregnancy.

What Is Lightning Crotch?

“Lightning crotch” isn’t a medical term; rather, it’s a colloquial phrase used by some pregnant people to describe sharp, sudden pains that occur in the pelvis, rectum, or vaginal area during pregnancy. There isn’t a precise definition for lightning crotch, but you could think of it as a discomfort that's possibly related to other aches and pains during pregnancy.

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What Does Lightning Crotch Feel Like?

Lightning crotch, as well as other aches and pains in this area, may vary in intensity from person to person—everyone experiences pain differently, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint exactly where the pain is coming from.

Some people describe “lightning crotch” as feeling like a bolt of lightning, hence the name. However, pains in this region (including the pelvic area, hips, crotch, lower back, and abdomen) may range from mild discomfort or pressure that comes and goes sporadically throughout pregnancy to painful and intense sensations with sharp or jabbing pains that can occur suddenly and last for several minutes.

It's important to contact your healthcare provider if you’re experiencing something like lightning crotch or any pain during pregnancy, especially if it’s constant or severe.

When Does Lightning Crotch Occur in Pregnancy?

So, when does lightning crotch start when you're pregnant? The timing for any aches and pains that occur in pregnancy varies for each person. From early pregnancy to delivery, your body changes and adapts to your growing baby, so it’s normal to feel some pain (such as lightning crotch) from time to time.

In the second trimester, pain can occur in the lower abdomen and even into the hips and groin as your uterus expands and stretches the ligaments, and this may feel like lightning crotch.

As pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, it’s common to experience discomfort related to the growth of your baby and hormonal changes. Lightning crotch, lower back pain, or pelvic pain can occur; you may also feel pains in your hips and legs.

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, you might experience pains in your pelvic area, which may be associated with lightning crotch, as your body prepares for labor.

Remember, no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in, if you experience pain, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What Causes Lightning Crotch When You’re Pregnant?

Though the exact cause of lightning crotch is not fully understood, it could be related to a pregnancy condition such as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), in which the joint at the front of the pelvis, the pubic symphysis, allows for more movement than usual. Too much movement from this joint can lead to pain in the pelvis and groin.

If you’re experiencing pain in this area, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider to pinpoint the cause of the pain. The following are among the potential causes of pain in your pelvic and vaginal area during pregnancy:

  • Pressure from the baby on the nerves in the pelvis as the baby drops into a deeper position in preparation for birth

  • Your baby's movements in the uterus

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy that can affect the ligaments in the hips and pelvic area, making them looser and stretchy in preparation for birth (this form of hip and pelvic pain is also known as round ligament pain)

  • Your body preparing for labor and delivery (read up on signs of labor to help you recognize any symptoms)

  • A urinary tract infection or bladder irritation

  • Ectopic pregnancy.

How Can You Help Relieve Lightning Crotch?

Though the causes of lightning crotch are often unknown or hard to pinpoint, there are some measures you can take to help relieve this and other uncomfortable symptoms during pregnancy. Here are some examples, and your healthcare provider may also make recommendations for your specific situation.

  • Practice prenatal yoga to help strengthen and relax your pelvic muscles.

  • Take warm baths or use heat packs on the painful area for temporary relief.

  • Apply a cold compress to the area for numbing relief.

  • Avoid standing for long periods of time.

  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.

  • Do Kegel exercises.

  • Wear comfortable, breathable underwear and clothing that doesn't constrict your pelvis.

  • Take short breaks throughout the day, such as lying down on your side for 15 minutes or taking a short walk to help relieve pressure.

  • Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated.

It's important to contact your healthcare provider right away if you're experiencing any persistent or severe pain during pregnancy.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

If you're experiencing lightning crotch or something similar during pregnancy, it's important to remember that while it can be uncomfortable or even painful, it may not be a cause for concern. However, any persistent or severe pain should always be discussed with your healthcare provider to rule out any potential complications.

If your vaginal pain (or lightning crotch) is accompanied by vaginal bleeding, fever, vomiting (not associated with morning sickness), or pressure in your pelvic area or lower abdomen, or if you experience signs of labor or preterm labor (if you’re less than 36 weeks pregnant) such as contractions or your water breaking, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Remember, every pregnancy is different, and what may be commonplace for one person may be completely foreign to another. Always consult your healthcare provider for any concerns or questions you may have during your pregnancy journey, and take a look at our article about pregnancy symptoms not to ignore.

The Bottom Line

Experiencing lightning crotch or any lower back, hip, and pelvic discomforts during pregnancy might feel daunting, but these pains are not uncommon. Each person’s experience of pregnancy is unique, and the intensity and location of pain can vary greatly. Always consult your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or if the pain becomes severe, as they can provide personalized advice and potential remedies to help alleviate the discomfort. Pregnancy is a journey filled with its share of challenges, but the joy of welcoming new life makes it a remarkable experience.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.