Pregnancy comes with so many fun, unexpected side effects, from a constant running nose, to such severe gas that you might as well be a tugboat for all the toots you emit. At some point in your pregnancy, you might notice something that's a hair more challenging to deal with — shooting pains straight to the vag that feel like your vulva is being electrocuted every time you stand up. The phenomenon is known as "lightning crotch" and it's thought to have to do with the baby's position. But can it happen earlier? Is lightning crotch a sign of pregnancy?
I had varying degrees of vulvar pain throughout my second pregnancy. Everything from vulvar pressure, which my doctors attributed to the increase in blood volume, to a vulvar varicosity — what a joy that was — to the lovely lightning crotch of the third trimester. My vagina was like a terrible funhouse that had evil clowns inside with phaser guns set to "stun." It was a cluster of miseries, and I know I'm not alone in that feeling. If you're less than pleased with your genitals while trying to conceive, you might wonder if lightning crotch is more than just a pregnancy symptom. Is it actually a sign that you are pregnant?
Here's the thing — the term "lightning crotch," though vague and somewhat vexing, applies only to pain of the vaginal and rectal area during pregnancy, and it's typically only diagnosed — as much as it can be — during the late second and third trimesters. Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN, told Self , "The majority of nerves in the uterus are actually right by the cervix. Regardless of the baby's position, if something's pressing on your cervix, it can stimulate those nerves."
The shocking pain of lightning crotch that affects the entire urogenital and posterior regions during pregnancy is primarily associated with your third trimester, according to Linda Bryceland, head of midwifery at Private Midwives in an interview with the International Business Times. It's because as your baby gets bigger and moves about in your womb, it begins to put pressure on some of the nerves down there, and it can become incredibly uncomfortable, noted Bryceland.
That doesn't mean that vulvar pain happens only during the third trimester, suggested Dr. Colleen M. Kennedy of the University of Iowa, Iowa City in a presentation at the Central Association Meeting of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Many women report vulvar and vaginal symptoms during pregnancy, but little is known about the frequency, severity, and timing of complaints such as vulvar pain, burning, itching, and dyspareunia," she said, as transcribed by OB.Gyn News.
Unfortunately, vulvar pain in general is super common, and not a lot is known about it. It can happen at any point in a woman's life, and absent a giant baby pressing down on your cervix, it's hard to pinpoint the cause, noted Dermatology and Therapy. They wrote, "A conservative estimate is that 16 percent of women will have chronic vulvar pain for three to six months at one point in their lifetime. Therefore, 14,000,000 women in the United States will have experienced chronic vulvar pain." That's a lot of women wondering why their vagina feels like it was just head butted by a mountain goat.
Your best option is to be seen by your provider and try to come up with a solution. While "lightning crotch" may be defined by late pregnancy, pain in the vaginal region is not. It's real, it can be crippling, and there are some treatments that might provide relief. Call your OB-GYN and tell them about your pain — you don't need to continue suffering unduly.
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