Our bodies do some weird things during pregnancy, and we’ve created some weird terms to describe these strange phenomena. Like the terms bloody show. And, of course, lightning crotch.
Many mamas experience the painful sensation of lightning crotch in their nether regions without knowing that it has an official name.
What is lightning crotch and what does it feel like?
Lightning crotch is a catch-all phrase for a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain that occurs in the pelvis, rectum, or vulva. Causes can include baby’s movement, round ligament pain, and mineral deficiencies.
Lightning crotch feels like a quick, lightning flash of pain. The pain can also radiate down the legs.
When does it happen?
Depending on what is causing it, you can get these pains throughout pregnancy, but they tend to intensify in the weeks before labor. You may even get the sharp pains in the hours leading up to delivery.
Some women find that certain positions when sitting or lying down can trigger lightning crotch.
Does lightning crotch mean baby is coming?
Some women have felt these pains throughout their pregnancy, when a swift kick from baby’s foot or elbow hits the bundle of nerves by the cervix.
And of course, as the baby continues to move towards the birth canal, their head will put more pressure on the area, causing more shooting pains.
Lightning crotch pain really doesn’t mean anything, except that the nerves in that area are being triggered.
Should I be worried?
Random cramps and pains are to be expected when your body is preoccupied with growing another human being, but there is a point when you need to contact your birth professional.
If you experience cramping or pains at regular intervals, accompanied by spotting or bleeding, then be sure to tell your doctor or midwife right away. Note that this type of pain goes above and beyond lightning crotch, and could be a symptom of something more serious.
What causes lightning crotch and what does it mean?
There are several different reasons why expecting mamas get these pains, but it basically has to do with pressure on the bundle of nerves around the cervix. The majority of the nerves in the uterus just so happen to be right above your cervix. As baby moves around and things start happening down there, it can stimulate these nerves.
Common causes of lightning crotch include:
When your baby changes positions, turns, stretches, or kicks, they can put pressure on the nerves in your uterus. This in turn can cause a sharp, sudden pain. The pressure on the nerves intensifies, especially as baby’s head engages into the pelvis during the last few weeks of pregnancy or during labor.
Round ligament pain
The ligaments that support your pelvis and uterus stretch to accommodate baby during pregnancy. Some women produce more of the hormones relaxin and progesterone than others, causing even more stretching and loosening of the ligaments. When these round ligaments stretch too far or too quickly, it can cause the lightning crotch pain. (source)
Most of us are lacking in this essential mineral, but our stores become even more depleted when they’re trying to keep up with two people’s needs. Magnesium is vital for many of the body’s functions, but it is especially helpful for proper nerve function. A deficiency only compounds the sharp nerve pains caused by lightning crotch, and can cause muscle cramps and sciatica. (source)
You’re probably well aware of unsightly varicose veins in the legs, but during pregnancy you can also get varicosities in the vaginal area. This can cause tingly pelvic pain from blood pooling in the lower extremities, similar to the zinging feeling of lightning crotch.
“There’s increasing pressure from the enlarging uterus, so the blood from everything below it doesn’t make its way effectively upward as it typically does. That pressure changes cause dilation of those veins.” – source
Symptoms of lightning crotch
When your baby moves down into the birth canal in preparation for birth, it can cause lightning crotch as well as other symptoms from the increased pressure.
A swift kick from your baby’s foot or elbow earlier on in pregnancy can also cause sharp pains in the pelvic and vaginal area.
Most of these symptoms will increase as you get closer to labor, with baby putting more pressure on the nerves around the cervix.
- Sharp pains in the rectum, cervix, or vulva
- Urinary incontinence, and/or frequent urination
- Less heartburn (if baby’s head has engaged into the birth canal)
- Easier time taking deep breaths (once baby “drops”)
Natural tips to ease the discomfort
You don’t have much control over your baby’s movements, but there are some things that can really help relieve the pain caused by lightning crotch.
The following suggestions are great for relieving a myriad of pregnancy symptoms, and will help your body prepare for birth—whether or not you have lightning crotch.
A good chiropractor will help align the spine by releasing subluxations that cause nerve compression. Since your body is now carrying increased weight, it can throw you off balance. A chiropractor can adjust the spine and pelvis to relieve pressure that’s being put on ligaments and nerves, especially the sciatic nerve that can cause shooting pains down the legs. (source)
This therapy is helpful to normalize the pelvic floor muscle tone and can be done by a chiropractor who specializes in it. By activating the body’s trigger points, muscles that are causing nerve compression and imbalance in the pelvis will be released.
“Sometimes muscles are capable of working but cannot due to the pain they would cause by contracting forcefully.” (source)
Acupuncture and acupressure
This ancient form of Chinese medicine works by targeting and releasing nerve points in the body. It’s powerful enough to encourage cervical ripening and improve labor and delivery, but it also helps to relieve pelvic pain.
This study showed that acupuncture was highly effective at relieving pelvic pain, but the points used were ones that are avoided during pregnancy by traditional Chinese medicine. Be sure to consult with a qualified practitioner who will take all of the factors into account and come up with a personalized plan for you.
Movement and exercise
Regular and gentle exercise during pregnancy has many benefits, including preparing the body for the stress of labor. Here are some specific pregnancy exercises and techniques that can be used to help bring balance to the pelvis, support round ligaments, and get baby in an optimal position.
When the round ligament muscles are tight, you can feel the pulling in your pelvis and even down into your labia. The exercises linked to above will help to relieve excess pressure on the pelvis and alleviate the symptoms of lightning crotch triggered by stretching round ligaments.
Wearing a belly band and compression garments help to relieve pressure in the pelvic area. Since blood flow significantly increases in the vaginal area during pregnancy, this can help to relieve the tingly pain caused by varicose veins in the area. It can also help prevent blood from pooling in your lower extremities and vagina. (source)
Supplement with magnesium
Magnesium is necessary for proper nerve function and helps to prevent muscle cramping and sciatica pain that can cause pelvic pain during pregnancy. Some healthcare professionals believe that over 75% of the U.S. population is deficient in this important mineral. Learn if you’re deficient here. And learn about the best magnesium supplement here. (Of course, you can always start with just boosting your intake of magnesium-rich foods!) (source)
Dealing with lightning crotch
Even though this issue has a silly name, the pain is no joke. Thankfully, the shooting lightning-like pains will come and go quickly.
Did you experience lightning like pains in the crotch while pregnant? Tell us what you did for them in the comments below!