Lightning Crotch Pain During Pregnancy

Definition, Causes, and Treatment

Lightning crotch is a condition involving intense, shooting pain that can be felt in the vagina, pelvis, or rectum and may travel down the inner thigh. It can happen throughout pregnancy, but tends to occur more in the last trimester. The name of the condition comes from it often being described as a sudden electrical jolt.

Symptoms of lightning crotch can vary, but may include sharp, radiating pain or a pins and needles sensation that often lasts 15 to 60 seconds.

lightning crotch

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This article explains the symptoms of lightning crotch, what causes it, and treatment options. It also covers when to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Symptoms of Lightning Crotch

Symptoms of lightning crotch may include:

  • Sharp and sudden 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 one's 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 During Pregnancy

The exact cause of lightning crotch is not well known. It tends to occur in more in the last trimester as the baby grows larger and puts more pressure on the nerves around the uterus. 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: Lightning crotch may mean the baby has dropped lower in the pelvis as labor approaches. The baby's position may trigger this painful sensation.
  • 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.
  • Dilating: Lightning crotch may mean you're dilating, or the cervix is opening up to prepare for labor and delivery. The pressure the baby places on the cervix may cause lightning crotch.

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


Treatment for lightning crotch during pregnancy may include:

Home Treatment

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

  • Sleeping or lying on your side
  • Wearing a pregnancy support belt (to support the weight of the fetus)
  • Kegel exercises, or pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the muscles around the pelvis
  • 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 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, which is mucus that forms at the cervix to protect the fetus from bacteria

These early warning signs do not necessarily mean you need to call your healthcare provider. But, if 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.

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)


Lightning crotch during pregnancy is a sharp, sudden, and shooting pain that can be felt in the pelvis, vagina, or rectum. This pain may also travel down the inner thigh.

Possible causes tend to involve fetal growth, fetal movement, and nearing labor. Treatment options include medication, chiropractic adjustments, and home remedies.

Be sure to reach out to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing lightning crotch along with other symptoms.

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

  • 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. 

  • 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.

3 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. International Doula Institute. What are signs of cervical dilation?

  2. Howell ER. Pregnancy-related symphysis pubis dysfunction management and postpartum rehabilitation: two case reportsJ Can Chiropr Assoc. 2012;56(2):102-111.

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

By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.