Lightning crotch is yet another not-so-fun aspect of pregnancy. With all that blood flow going on down there and things shifting and moving to prepare for a baby, it can feel like lightning is literally striking your crotch, abdomen, and bum. But at least pregnancy is only nine months, right? Unless this strikes in postpartum. Does lightning crotch happen after pregnancy? If so, how long should it last? And also, why? Haven't we suffered enough?
Unfortunately, lightning crotch doesn’t end postpartum for a lot of women. It’s actually very common and it can last anywhere from six weeks up to eight months, according to Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, who is an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger along with his twin brother for TwinDoctorsTV. So why does this keep happening even though you’ve given birth already? Abdur-Rahman says it’s because the causes are very similar between pregnancy lightning crotch and postpartum lightning crotch. The increased blood supply to your pelvis can remain there for at least six weeks, according to Abdur-Rahman. “This can lead to varicosities that cause ‘lightning crotch.’ Most times, after the six- week period has passed, these varicosities improve, but they don't always completely go away. So, persistently dilated pelvic veins (i.e. varicosities) can lead to prolonged ‘lightning crotch.’”
The relaxin hormone is also to blame for postpartum lightning crotch. “This hormone causes the joints, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body to relax, hence the name relaxin,” Abdur-Rahman explains. “The joints, ligaments, and tendons need to relax so that the pelvis can become pliable and can easily expand to accommodate the enlarging baby and then the baby as he or she moves through the birth canal. The ligaments that anchor the uterus to the bones in the pelvis (i.e., the round ligaments) also attach the uterus to the vagina. These ligaments, like all of the body's ligaments, become lax during pregnancy.” And with all this growing and shrinking going on, it’s no shock that you’ll feel it. And Abdur-Rahman says it could take five or six months for your body’s joints, ligaments, and tendons to recover from the effects of relaxin.
For the most part, you shouldn’t really need to seek medical attention when you experience lightning crotch postpartum, unless you’re having “persistent pelvic or abdominal pain that you think is lightning crotch,” Abdul-Rahman says. But only if it is worsening and not improving. “A postpartum infection of the uterus (i.e., endometritis) can cause persistent and/or worsening abdominal/pelvic pain after delivery. It can also cause fever and persistently heavy vaginal bleeding,” he explains. “A urinary tract infection can also cause very similar symptoms (with the exception of heavy vaginal bleeding).”
You could also have an ovarian torsion if you’re experiencing severe abdominal pain and bleeding postpartum. “An ovarian torsion occurs when one of the ovaries twists, kind of like an apple hanging from a stalk. Ovaries are more likely to do this during pregnancy and right afterwards because pregnancy and the postpartum period causes the ovaries to enlarge,” Abdur-Rahman says. Once ovaries are enlarged, they will sway and dangle more from the “stalk” that they’re suspended from, he explains. And since the blood supply to your ovaries runs through this stalk, it’s important for it not to be disrupted because your ovaries can swell and eventually die.
But rest assured, unless you're feeling severe abdominal pain and cramping that gets worse and not better, you're probably feeling lightning crotch again, and it's nothing to worry about. Your body down there has been through quite a lot of trauma all during pregnancy, and not to mention labor. So it can be expected you may feel it when things try to shift back to normal.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.