I was late in my third trimester when I felt a sharp pain in my vagina. I had no idea what was happening, it just felt like electricity was shooting at me from the inside. Was I in labor? Was something wrong? Was my baby secretly Storm from X-Men? So, I called my midwife to ask. She chuckled a bit and told me that I was experiencing a common symptom of late pregnancy — vaginal pain — which is sometimes called "lightning crotch." It turns out there are things lightning crotch can tell you about your pregnancy, too. Thankfully, for the most part, it's typically not a big deal. I mean, aside from the pain part, because OMG it hurts.
According to my midwife, my lightening crotch pain was a sign that my cervix was changing. My baby had descended into my pelvis and was literally touching me from the inside, which was exactly what it felt like (if my baby had electricity coming out of her, that is). All of that pressure was causing my cervix to thin and dilate. Unfortunately for me, my body didn't get the memo. Did you know you can be dilated for weeks without going into labor? Yeah, neither did I. Ugh.
For other pregnant people lightning crotch might be a sign of something else. According to What to Expect, it can be caused by your baby's head irritating nerves in your uterus. Healthline explains that as your baby grows and moves into position for birth, they may stretch or put pressure on your cervix, which can cause those annoying lightning-like pains. As always, you should consult your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), even though some pain in pregnancy is completely normal and to be expected, pain that is persistent, and doesn't go away if you take it easy or shift positions, should always be checked out, as it may be a sign of something serious. So with that in mind, here's what lightning crotch could be trying to tell you about your pregnancy:
Your Baby Is Stretching
As nurse Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN told Healthline, lightning-like sharp pains in your crotch during late pregnancy are generally caused by your baby literally touching you from the inside and irritating nerves inside your uterus. As your pregnancy progresses, and your baby grows, it becomes more difficult for them to stretch or turn without causing you discomfort.
Your Baby Has "Dropped"
For me, my baby dropping meant finally feeling like I could breathe again, but it seems that I traded one discomfort for another. According to What to Expect, when your baby descends inside your body to get ready for their birthday, they can literally cause lightning-like nerve pain. This is due to irritation or pressure on the nerves inside your uterus, which, as OB-GYN Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D. tells SELF, are located near your cervix.
Your Cervix Is Changing
According to my midwife, my lightning crotch was likely caused by my cervix dilating. As What to Expect explains, what feels like vaginal pain during pregnancy might actually be your cervix changing — thinning out and dilating (getting bigger) to prepare your body for your baby's birth. This happens due to hormonal changes and actual pressure from your baby's head on your cervix.
You Have Varicose Veins
Did you know you could get varicose veins on your labia and vagina during pregnancy? I didn't, until it happened to me. As Peter Ahlering, M.D., an OB-GYN at the Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine, tells SELF, "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." This dilation can cause lightning crotch pain. The good news is that this type of pain can be treated with compression pantyhose, and your varicose veins should get smaller or go away entirely after you give birth.
You May Go Into Labor Soon
For some pregnant people, lightning crotch is an early sign of labor. According to Healthline, if you experience lightning crotch pain with other symptoms — like a back ache, contractions, or leaking fluid — you just might be in labor and should contact your health care provider to see what next steps they recommend.
There's A Problem
Unfortunately, for some women — including me — cervical dilation can take several weeks, or you might be dilated for weeks before going into labor, so lightning crotch pains might not mean that you will have your baby today, or even any time soon.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), even though lightning crotch pain in pregnancy is normal, it may be a sign of something serious. As always, it's never a bad idea to ask your OB-GYN or midwife about pain during pregnancy, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms (like a fever, chills, or discharge), doesn't go away when you change positions, or you think you might be in labor.
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