Lightning Crotch: What It Is and Why It Sucks - Baby Chick

Lightning Crotch: What It Is and Why It Sucks

Learn what you need to know about sudden pelvic pain during pregnancy, known as lightning crotch, and what causes it.

Updated November 27, 2023

by Jenni Forsythe

Registered Nurse, BSN

Medically reviewed by Kristy Goodman

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Physician Assistant, MS, MPH, PA-C
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A sudden sharp pain to your vagina when you’re expecting a baby might be alarming, but luckily it’s not a cause for concern. You may wonder, though, “Why am I throbbing down there? What is this searing, sharp, stabbing pain in my vaginal area? Here’s what you need to know about sudden pelvic pain during pregnancy, known as lightning crotch.

What is Lightning Crotch?

Nothing catches you off guard like going about your day and suddenly feeling an electric jolt to your vagina or pelvic region. You, my friend, are experiencing pelvic pain during pregnancy and what many refer to as lightning crotch.1

Many are familiar with the discomforts of pregnancy, but not everyone has heard of lightning crotch. Although not its medical name, it’s commonly referred to as lightning crotch because of the shooting pain that radiates through your vagina, pelvis, or rectum area that feels like a lightning jolt. It tends to show up in the third trimester of pregnancy as the baby gets bigger, putting pressure on the nerves.1

What Does Lightning Crotch Feel Like?

Lightning crotch gets its name because of its characteristic quick, sharp, and electric shooting pain in the vaginal area. Lightning crotch is rarely severe, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt! Symptoms can vary from person to person, and not all pregnant people experience lightning crotch. The pain typically lasts a few seconds. Symptoms include:2

  • A sudden, sharp pain like a lightning bolt or electrical zap
  • Stinging or burning pain
  • Brief, intense pelvic pain

What Causes Lightning Crotch?

You may be scratching your head as to why this unexpected pelvic pain is occurring during pregnancy. There is no clear answer to what causes lightning crotch, but experts believe it may be due to the growing baby putting pressure on the uterine and pelvic ligaments and nerves.2

As the baby grows and prepares for delivery, it will continue to drop lower into the pelvis, a process called engagement. The baby’s weight applies pressure, which stimulates the uterus and pelvic area nerves.1,3

This may cause a momentary jolt of pain. Sudden movements may trigger lightning crotch, such as coughing or sneezing. If you have an active baby, those cute little kicks or even stretching might do the trick in starting a jolt-like pain.7

Can You Prevent Lightning Crotch?

Something you probably don’t want to hear is that lightning crotch is not preventable. Some moms-to-be have found some relief with small changes. However, lightning crotch may be something that sticks around until delivery.1

How Do You Relieve the Pain?

Here are a couple of things you can try that may help relieve some of the pain:1,2

  • Wearing a belly binder can take some pressure off the pelvis.
  • Changing positions may get the baby off of your nerves — literally.

Is Lightning Crotch a Sign of Labor?

Although lightning crotch is a promising sign that the baby may be engaging and dropping lower into your pelvis, it is not a sign of labor. If you have other symptoms that indicate labor is near, it’s a good idea to contact your OB or midwife. Some signs that labor may be near include:2,4

Other Causes of Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy

Not all pelvic pain is the same, and you may experience pelvic pain during pregnancy for a couple of reasons.

  • Round ligament pain: Also known as pregnancy “growing pains.” Round ligament pain is common and typically begins in the second trimester. Pregnancy hormones relax the uterine ligaments, called the round ligaments, causing stretching and pain. It can cause aches and spasms in the lower abdominal and hip areas on one or both sides. The pain may last a few seconds or may last for hours.5
  • Sciatica pain: The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that branches off the spinal cord in the lower back and down the legs. If the sciatic nerve gets irritated, it causes pain. During pregnancy, the baby’s weight, or the growing uterus, can pinch or irritate the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain symptoms include shooting pain in the lower back that goes down one or both legs.6

While not a fun symptom to experience, lightning crotch pain comes and goes quickly and usually goes away with the delivery of your baby. If the pain lasts longer than a minute or you are also experiencing bleeding, fluid from the vagina, fever, severe headaches, or dizziness, you should contact your provider immediately.1

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Jenni Forsythe
Jenni Forsythe Registered Nurse, BSN
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Jenni Forsythe is a registered nurse and a proud mama of three, currently working with the maternal/newborn, high-risk pregnancy, and neonatal populations. She's passionate about women's health and loves supporting… Read more

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