Lightning crotch refers to a sharp, shooting pain in the crotch area, mainly the pelvis, rectum, and vagina, as you near your due date. Several would-be-mothers describe this pain as the “jab or punch” in the crotch from the inside. Some mothers say that it feels like the baby is poking them with a knife from the inside.
So, why does lightning crotch occur, and is it normal? Read on to know more about lightning crotch, its symptoms, and natural ways to manage it.
What Is Lightning Crotch And What Does It Feel Like?
Lightning crotch is an occasional, shooting, sudden, and stabbing nerve pain across the pelvis, vulva, or rectum. You may experience it when you are nearing the due date for childbirth. It is a sudden flash of pain, like an electric shock or jolt, that radiates down the legs (1).
The spasms or pain can occur any time of the day or night and usually happens when you are in one position for extended periods. For instance, you may experience this pain if you have been sleeping in one position, sitting in the car or in front of the computer for many hours.
Is Lightning Crotch Normal, And When Does It Happen?
Yes, lightning crotch is normal in pregnant women. The painful sensation may signal that you are getting closer to your due date. Some women may also experience twinges or pain several weeks before they enter into labor.
Is Lightning Crotch A Sign That You Are In Labor?
Lightning crotch might be a sign that labor is nearing, but not necessarily a sign of active labor. It might occur on and off throughout the gestational period but is more common in the final trimester nearer to childbirth.
If you are frequently experiencing this condition before the 37th week of pregnancy, then it is a cause for concern.
What Causes Lightning Crotch?
There could be many reasons for the flashing and lightning pain, but the pressure built on the nerves around the cervixiXThe lowermost and narrowest part of the uterus that connects to the vagina is the primary cause. The other possible causes of lightning crotch include:
- The baby’s movement: The movements of your baby, such as changing position, stretching, kicking, or turning, can apply pressure on nerves, resulting in sudden sharpness of the pain. The pressure aggravates and intensifies the pain when the baby drops down into the lower part of the uterus, during the last weeks of pregnancy (2).
- Magnesium deficiency: Magnesium stores can deplete during pregnancy, with both the mother and the baby using up the essential nutrient. Magnesium is essential for proper functioning of the nerves. Lack of this mineral will lead to sharp nerve pains resulting in muscle cramping and sciatica (3).
- Round ligament pain: The round ligament assists the uterus and pelvis in accommodating the growing baby in the womb. In some cases, excess production of the relaxin and progesterone hormones will lead to more stretching of this ligament, causing lightning crotch.
- Varicose pain: During pregnancy, you will develop varicosities in the vaginal region. This is due to the pooling of blood in the lower extremities, causing a sensation similar to lightning crotch (4).
- Sciatica: The sciatic nerve runs along the buttock. This nerve pain results from prolonged episodes of sitting and immobility.
Several would-be moms report feeling this sharp pain during their pregnancy. An anonymous blogger who goes by the name ‘A Simple Life’ shares her experience and says, “I occasionally get what they refer to as lightning crotch or fanny daggers. It is caused (apparently) by pressure on the cervix (baby foot?) and stretching ligaments around that area. They haven’t been frequent or super painful, but they occasionally catch me off guard if I’m walking or something, and I have to stop for a quick second and take a breath (i).”
Keep reading to know about the accompanying symptoms of the condition.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lightning Crotch?
The characteristic symptom of the lightning crotch is stabbing pain around the vaginal region as your delivery date draws closer. As the baby descends into the birth canal, you will experience other symptoms such as:
- Reduced heartburniXA common discomfort caused by acid reflux, distinguished by a burning sensation in the chest and throat , since the baby moves down into the birthing position
- Frequent urination
- Urinary incontinenceiXThe inability to control urination or loss of bladder control
- Ability to breathe easily, as the baby drops into the pelvis, taking off the pressure on the lungs and chest
If these symptoms are frequent and are accompanied by serious symptoms such as fever, severe headaches, reduced or absent fetal movements, abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding or spotting, see a doctor.
Natural Ways To Deal With Lightning Crotch
Lightning crotch is a brief discomfort that you may experience towards the end of the pregnancy. You may try a few natural remedies to get relief from the pain. Then again, it might take some trial and error to find which remedy works the best for you.
- Physical exercise and movements: Involve in some physical exercise to reduce pregnancy pains. The more you engage your body physically, the better you will be at adapting to the progressing pregnancy and the resultant pains.
Walking, sitting or leaning on an exercise ball, pelvic rocks, forward-leaning inversions, cardio and lots of stretching will support the round ligaments, balance the pelvic area and bring the baby to an optimal position, minimizing the frequency of lightning crotch.
- Having a warm water bath: A warm water bath will provide great relief from pregnancy discomforts such as body aches and stress. It also eases the round ligament pain. Do not use overheated water as that will raise the core body temperature.
- Supportive clothing: Compression garments and belly bands will support the pelvic area and relieve pressure from it. Since blood circulation in the vaginal area increases with the progressing pregnancy, supportive clothing eases the pressure off the joints, hips and cervical region.
- Minimize your workload: Research states that occupational exposure will lead to an increased risk of pelvic and lower back pains in pregnant women (5). If your work involves much physical and hands-on-labor, you might experience more pain. Consider minimizing your workload and get some rest for relieving pregnancy pains.
- Get a massage: A massage therapist can help relax the pain-prone areas to ease the sore muscles caused by nerve pulling. Alleviating muscle soreness will lower the pain.
- Swimming helps: Most people believe that swimming in the last days of pregnancy could relieve pelvic pain. When you swim, your legs and pelvic muscles are exercised, which reduces the pain in the pelvis and the chances of a lightning crotch.
- Chiropractic treatments: A professional chiropractor will adjust the spine to help you get relief from the pressure brought on by compressed nerves in the pelvic region. They may also use a technique called myofascial releaseiXA therapeutic technique that uses gentle pressure to stretch and release tight muscles, improving flexibility and reducing pain to normalize the trigger points that cause nerve compression, thereby correcting the imbalance in the pelvic region and reducing the frequency of lightning crotch (6).
- Acupuncture and acupressure: These techniques are useful in releasing any muscle or nerve pain (7). A qualified practitioner might help you in releasing the nerve points which are causing lightning crotch.
- Magnesium supplements: Since magnesium deficiency is also one of the causes of the lightning crotch, intake of magnesium supplements will help in proper nerve functioning and prevent muscle cramps and sciatica pain (8). You can also include more magnesium-rich foods to up the nutrient intake.
Next, we answer some of the frequent queries on lightning crotch.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I have lightning crotch even when I am not pregnant?
Yes, you might experience a sharp and sudden pain in the pelvic region even if you are not pregnant or have never been pregnant. It usually happens as a result of menstrual cramps, ruptured cyst, bladder infection, pelvic infections, trauma or surgery in the pelvic or vaginal areas (9).
2. Does lightning crotch indicate dilation?
Lightning crotch may develop with a dilating cervix, but it cannot be the sole symptom (1).
You can ask your doctor certain questions to rule out any other reasons for the discomfort.
√ Should I get checked for dilation?
√ Am I having any signs of infection?
√ Is my baby in the correct position?
√ Can I do any exercises to get my baby in the right position for labor?
3. How long before labor does lightning crotch occur?
During pregnancy, lightning crotch may occur occasionally, but it is more common in the latter stages, specifically during the last four to six weeks of the pregnancy (10).
4. Does the lightning crotch mean the baby has dropped?
Lightning crotch is a pregnancy symptom that is believed to be caused by the baby growing larger and dropping down into the pelvis before birth, a process known as engagement. When the baby drops down, their head puts pressure on the cervix and the nerves located in the lower part of the uterus, resulting in pain (10).
5. How can you tell the difference between the lightning crotch and labor?
Labor contractions are characterized by their regular and increasing frequency and closeness, as well as potential accompanying pain in the lower back similar to menstrual cramping or long-lasting discomfort. In contrast, lightning crotch is a sudden, sharp pain in the pelvic area without a set pattern or timing (10).
Lightning crotch is a sharp pain in the pelvis, vagina, and rectum often experienced in pregnancy. Baby’s movements, stretching of round ligaments, constipation, magnesium deficiency, and pressure exerted by growing uterus on surrounding structures can cause lightning crotch in pregnancy. However, non-pregnant women can also experience lightning crotch due to various reasons, including pelvic infections. You may consult a doctor if you experience other symptoms and if the pain is unbearable or not relieved with natural measures. It is important to identify and resolve the underlying cause of severe pain before it worsens.
Infographic: Can Pudendal Neuralgia Cause Lightning Crotch In Pregnancy?
Pudendal neuralgia causes lightning crotch or pelvic pain during pregnancy and postpartum. It is due to the damage to the pudendal nerve supplying the genital areas. Go through the infographic to learn more facts about pudendal neuralgia in pregnancy.
- A lightning crotch is a sharp and intense pain felt in the pelvic area during the final stages of pregnancy.
- Usual causes of lightning crotch include changes in the baby’s position, lack of magnesium, and pain in the ligament region.
- Signs of lightning crotch may include constipation, frequent bathroom trips, and decreased heartburn.
- There are several ways to reduce discomfort from lightning crotch, such as getting a massage, chiropractic care, swimming, acupuncture, warm baths, and being physically active.
Lightning crotch pain is a common pregnancy symptom. Check out this video to learn what causes it and how to manage the shooting pains for better management during this beautiful journey.
Personal experience: Source
i. 17 Weeks (Turnip): Jul 24-30;
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3. Reviewed by B Poulson, J Wilkins; Magnesium; University of Rochester Medical Center
4. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5th Edition, by Heidi Murkoff (2016)
5. Endresen EH; Pelvic pain and low back pain in pregnant women – an epidemiological study; Scand J Rheumatol. (1995)
6. L Chaitow; Chronic pelvic pain: Pelvic floor problems, sacroiliac dysfunction and the trigger point connection
7. Relieving pain with acupuncture; Harvard Health Publishing
8. Pan HC et al.; Magnesium supplement promotes sciatic nerve regeneration and down-regulates inflammatory response; Magnes Res. (2011)
9. D H Barad; Pelvic Pain; MSD Manuals
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