I was about 36 weeks pregnant the first time I felt sharp pain in my vagina. I had no idea what was happening. It felt like electricity was shooting out of my vagina, which was just as painful as it sounds. I wondered if I was in labor or if my baby was OK, so I called my midwife to ask. She laughed and reassured me that while painful, vaginal pain during pregnancy is common and, usually, not a big deal. Turns out, I had lightning crotch during pregnancy and there are so many things I wish I had known about it.
Namely, what it was and that it was normal. Pregnancy is scary, especially when you're experiencing it for the very first time. I called my midwife no fewer than 50 times about various aches and pains, and other symptoms that caused me to freak out and automatically assume that something was wrong with me, my pregnancy, or my growing baby. I had no idea that shooting electrical pain seemingly coming from my cervix was normal, and why would I? It was the least "normal-feeling" pain I've ever experienced. In fact, it's pretty much the weirdest thing I've ever felt.
According to my midwife, my lightning crotch pain was likely a sign that my cervix was changing. My baby had descended into my pelvis to get ready for birth, so the pressure was causing my cervix to thin and dilate. The end result? Lightning-like pains. While it might seem like reassuring information, this was actually terrifying to hear four weeks before my baby's due date. But then I learned that lightning crotch might be a sign of something else entirely, and completely unrelated to labor. It was so frustrating when I stayed dilated for weeks without going into labor, actually going five days past my daughter's due date.
So, yeah, since lightning crotch is something they probably *don't* cover in your pregnancy and birth class, here are a few things about it that might put your mind at ease if you feel pain down there during pregnancy.
What Lightning Crotch Is
Lightning crotch is definitely real, but what the heck is it? I mean, it's freaking weird. As nurse Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN, told Healthline, lightning-like sharp pains in your crotch during late pregnancy are generally caused by your baby irritating nerves inside your uterus. Lightning crotch can also be caused by your baby "dropping" or descending into your pelvis, which, according to What to Expect, can cause lightning-like nerve pain. I had no idea.
That It's "Normal"
For being as painful as it was, I was really surprised to learn that lightning crotch is actually a pretty common symptom of pregnancy. As my midwife told me, it's usually not a big deal, just a "normal" part of pregnancy. However, as someone who's been there, I can tell you that my response was literally, "normal, my ass."
It was so weird.
It Can Be A Sign That Labor Is Coming...
According to my midwife, my lightning crotch was likely caused by my cervix dilating. And when she checked me at my next appointment, we learned that I was two centimeters along. 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.
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 should contact your health care provider to see what next steps they recommend.
... Or It Might Not
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. Despite having lightning crotch pain for more than four weeks, my baby didn't come until five days after her due date.
That It's Never A Bad Idea To Call Your Health Care Provider
While vaginal 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.
While sometimes it made me feel like I was bothering them, my midwife's office had a 24-hour on-call schedule for a reason. It's OK to call with questions or worries, even if it's just to put your mind at ease. Stress is bad for pregnancy, and that's literally what they are there for. So, yeah, even though my midwife laughed at me a little, I am totally glad I called about lightning crotch, and other pregnancy pain. A little peace of mind is was worth some potential embarrassment.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.