Like acid reflux and hemorrhoids, lightening crotch is one of those things most women have vaguely heard of but don’t exactly understand or pay close mind to until they experience it during pregnancy. And most of us hadn’t heard of it until actress Hilary Duff opened up about the ailment during an “Ellen DeGeneres Show” appearance.
“I texted my midwife the other day and I was like, ‘What’s up with the stabbing pains in my vagina? I’m not feeling this,’” said Duff. “It feels awful, like you’re being struck by lightning. And she just wrote back and she was like, ‘Oh, lightning crotch,’ like it was no big thing. And I was like, ‘This is quite traumatic.’”
So, what exactly is lightning crotch?
For starters it’s as bad as it sounds! Lightening crotch is a short, sharp or shooting pain in the vagina, rectum or pelvis that travels down the inner thighs (think: electric shock). It usually comes on suddenly during pregnancy and lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. It’s often intense enough to take a woman’s breath away. Lightening crotch typically occurs in the third trimester, but it can occur anytime during pregnancy. Luckily it goes away once the baby is born.
Not all women will have lightning crotch. “Certain triggers can be caused by the size of the baby, the position of the baby and the pressure that the baby puts on the lower pelvis,” says Dr. Jodie Horton, M.D. and chief wellness advisor for Love Wellness. “The increasing pressure of the baby’s head on the cervix can press on the nerve that runs to the cervix and cause that shock wave of pain.” She goes on to explain that this is why lightening crotch is most common in the late third trimester since that’s when the baby moves down into the pelvis to get ready for labor.
While there is unfortunately nothing that can be done do to avoid lightning crotch, there are things that may provide some relief. “Changing positions may help get the baby in another position and relieve some of the pressure the baby is putting on the cervix,” says Dr. Horton. “A belly support band or belt may also help ease the symptoms, but nothing will take it away.”
Lightning crotch symptoms can be variable among women. Some women may have mild symptoms, while others may have intense stop-you-in-your-tracks pain. “There is no rhyme or reason as to why some women have more intense pain than others. Unfortunately, lightning crotch is another uncomfortable symptom of pregnancy but be reassured that it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the pregnancy or the baby,” says Dr. Horton.
Don’t confuse lightening crotch with labor.
Many women confuse lightning crotch with labor because it occurs in the third trimester and the pain may come and go. “Lightning crotch is not a sign of labor or contractions,” says Dr. Horton. “Contractions feel like a tightening of the entire belly that lasts 60 seconds or less. If the pain feels like strong menstrual cramps, increases in duration and intensity, and comes at regular intervals, call your doctor because these may be signs of labor.”