What Is Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy?

Lightning crotch is a condition involving shooting pain that can be felt in the pelvis, rectum, or vagina. The condition often occurs during pregnancy.

Because the pain is often felt suddenly—like an electrical jolt—it earned the name “lightning crotch.” There is no specific medical name for the condition.

The discomfort comes and goes, but tends to occur more during the last trimester of pregnancy as the baby is growing larger.

lightning crotch

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Symptoms of Lightning Crotch

Symptoms of lightning crotch may include:

  • Sharp, shooting pain
  • A pins and needles sensation in the pelvic area, rectum, or vagina
  • A brief bolt of pain, which has been described as taking the breath away
  • Doubling over in response to the severe burst of pain
  • Shooting pain that radiates down the legs
  • A sudden painful sensation as a pregnant person moves or shifts
  • Pain in the vagina, rectum, or pelvis in response to fetal movement
  • Uncomfortable pain that suddenly arises, then quickly dissipates

Causes of Lightning Crotch

The exact cause of lightning crotch is not well known, but possible causes could include:

  • Movement of the fetus: This can put pressure on a nerve and cause sharp pain in the pelvis, rectum, or vagina.
  • A growing fetus: This involves an increase in the amount of force that results from kicking and other movements.
  • Dropping: The baby’s head drops lower in the pelvis as labor approaches, which puts the fetus in the position to potentially cause a lightning crotch.
  • Pulling away and separating of the pelvic bones: This occurs as the fetus descends into the lower pelvis to get into the position for labor and delivery.

Only some pregnant women experience lightning crotch, and it may or may not occur in the same person with subsequent pregnancies.

Treatment 

Treatment for lightning crotch may include:

  • Pelvic blocks: An injection of pain medication
  • Chiropractic adjustments: Can be made to areas of the pelvis

Home Treatment

A study showed that home treatment helped provide relief from lightning crotch pain. This can include:

  • Side-lying positions
  • Pregnancy support belt (to support the weight of the fetus)
  • Kegel exercises
  • Cold applications
  • Staying active (keep moving, take breaks from sitting, perform daily stretching)
  • Placing a pillow between the legs when sleeping 

When to Call a Healthcare Provider

Lightning crotch could be one early sign of early labor, particularly when other signs are present, including:

  • Period-like cramps
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • A burst of energy
  • Loss of the mucus plug

These early warning signs do not necessarily mean it’s time to call your healthcare provider. But when you experience consistent contractions that occur more frequently and increase in duration and severity—even if you are not sure you are in labor—it is time to call them.

It’s especially important to call a healthcare provider when sharp, shooting pains from lightning crotch occur along with some other specific symptoms, such as:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Fever (over 100 F)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet
  • New vision problems (blurring, dimness of vision, or seeing spots)
  • A severe headache
  • A sudden release of fluid from your vagina (commonly referred to as your water breaking)

A Word From Verywell

Experiencing severe, sudden pain during pregnancy can be very alarming. It’s good to do some research, educate yourself, and find out that what you are feeling is not a serious threat to you or your baby.

That being said, it’s always best to discuss any new symptoms you have during pregnancy with your healthcare provider and follow the treatment advice of a medical professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does lightning crotch feel like?

Lightning crotch has been described as shooting pain that starts in the groin area (or it can be felt in the vagina, pelvis, or rectum) and may travel down the inner thigh. The pain occurs randomly, but is commonly experienced when a person has remained in the same position for a long time. This pain often lasts 15 to 60 seconds. 

When does lightning crotch start?

Lightning crotch commonly occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy. The severity of the pain depends on many factors, such as the size and position of the fetus. The pain usually subsides once the baby is born. 

What causes lightning crotch in pregnancy?

The cause of lightning crotch is the pelvic bones pulling away and separating as the baby descends into the birth canal to prepare for delivery. The head of the fetus may also press against sensitive body parts and may hit the nerve endings in the pubic bone. These changes may also cause lightning crotch. 

How do you ease lightning crotch?

Many home remedies can helping alleviate pain from lightning crotch. These include exercising regularly, and keeping the pelvis and hips flexible—by stretching and staying active, and wearing belly support.

Should you sit if you have lightning crotch?

Sitting for long periods can trigger lightning crotch pain. You should stand and move around periodically, and avoid sitting for long periods of time.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Howell ER. Pregnancy-related symphysis pubis dysfunction management and postpartum rehabilitation: two case reportsJ Can Chiropr Assoc. 2012;56(2):102-111.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Signs that labor is 24 to 48 hours away.