What is lightning crotch? (AKA Why does my pelvis hurt like hell?)

If you’ve ever felt a sudden pang of pelvic pain during pregnancy (or outside of pregnancy), it may have been what’s known as ‘lightning crotch’. And no, that’s not a crotch with incredible super powers – though if we’re honest, our vaginas are everyday heroes. 

Lightning crotch is a colloquial term used to describe sharp jolts of pain in your pelvic area or vagina. (Another one for the fun repertoire of female crotch complaints, along with period pain, early pregnancy cramping and the actual pain of childbirth.)

While lightning crotch can be experienced at any stage of life, a lot of women report it specifically in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Of course, any sort of unexplained pain during pregnancy can be freaky. But lightning crotch pain usually isn’t cause for concern. Let’s talk about what to do when your crotch gets hit.

What does lightning crotch feel like?

Apparently, lightning crotch can be described as ‘lightning shooting in your pelvic area’. (We all know what it feels like to get a lightning bolt to the vag, right? Common experience.)

It’s like a ‘zing’ or sharp stab of pain, which only lasts a few seconds but those few seconds SUCK! Some women panic that labor has started, but chill out – you’re not giving birth. Lightning crotch won’t last as long as contractions or come as regularly.

It’s like OUCH! WTF?! – done.

Symptoms of lightning crotch

  • Sharp, shooting pain in the vagina or pelvic area, lasting only for a moment.
  • Intense pelvic pain, stronger but shorter-lived than menstrual cramps.
  • Stinging or pins-and-needles sensation in the pelvic area.

You’ll probably know it when you feel it. You may gasp and have to stop what you’re doing for a moment. 

So how can you distinguish lightning crotch pain from other types of pelvic pain in pregnancy? Here are some of the other pelvic complaints you may experience.

What other types of pregnancy pelvic pain feel like

  • General pelvic pain – Sometimes called ‘pelvic girdle pain’, this will be more dull and achey than lightning crotch pain and it’s often a result of pelvic pressure buildup. Hmm, something to do with that child sitting on your pelvic floor.
  • Sciatica – Pain and tingling in the lower back, hips, butt, and down the legs, caused by stimulation of the sciatic nerve.

What pregnancy contractions feel like

If this is your first time getting pregnant, you’ll probably be anxiously awaiting signs of labor (hospital bag neatly packed and waiting by the front door, no doubt). While lightning crotch can feel intense and alarming, it’s distinctly different from labor pains. 

Labor pain is similar to menstrual cramps but much more intense. And when it starts, it keeps coming. While lightning crotch pain is a sudden, sharp and brief experience that comes at random, labor involves regular contractions that get more extreme and close together as time goes on.

What causes lightning crotch?

While doctors don’t 100% know what causes lightning crotch, it’s most likely related to movement of your baby in your womb. They may strike a nerve while stretching or kicking to cause the pain. Or it could even be to do with your baby ‘dropping’ – i.e. shifting into position for birth! When this happens, the baby’s head may push down on your pelvic floor and bladder causing sharp, stabbing pain.

How to manage lightning crotch

In the moment, there’s not a whole lot you can do except grit your teeth and ride out the wave of pain. It generally only lasts a few seconds. But if it happens frequently, here are some things you can try to keep the jolts at bay:

  • Change positions – This sounds so simple, but if you find that lightning crotch kicks up when you’re in a certain position, try to avoid that position or quickly switch it up. It can help to make note of what positions seem to trigger it.
  • Have a warm bath or massage – Relaxing your muscles may help the baby move a bit, and could provide some relief.
  • Wear a belly band – You can buy belly support braces to support some of the weight from your pelvic area and lower back to help reduce or prevent lightning crotch pain.
  • Stay active – When you’re moving, your baby will be moving around and changing positions too. Light exercise during your third trimester, such as walking or swimming, is great for your health and can assist in minimizing pelvic pain too.

When should I be worried?

While lightning crotch isn’t dangerous and doesn’t indicate pregnancy complications or issues with your growing baby, it’s by no means a pleasant phenomenon. It can disrupt what you’re doing and give you a shock, but you should be able to recover pretty quickly and get back on with things.

However, you should talk to your doctor ASAP if you experience any other symptoms such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Pelvic pain that lasts a long time
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Fever 
  • Bad headaches
  • Fluid leaking from your vagina
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • If you can’t feel the baby move.

And it’s always a good idea to mention your lightning pain at your next pregnancy checkup regardless – or earlier if you feel concerned for any reason.

What if I’m not pregnant?

If you’re experiencing those sharp pains in the pelvic area outside of pregnancy, it’s worth paying a visit to your doctor to get it checked out. It could be nothing, or it could be a sign of endometriosis or a urinary tract infection.

When will lightning crotch go away?

Lightning crotch in the third trimester of pregnancy will go away when your baby is born. Thank f*ck.

And chances are, if you’re experiencing it and you’re in your last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby is actually getting into position ready to dive into the birth canal and out your vagina. So it will end soon. As much as it hurts, lightning pain is a sign that things are going the way they should.

Hey mama, please note: the information in this article shouldn’t replace good advice, diagnosis or treatment from your maternity care team. If you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms that concern you, see your doctor immediately.

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