Pregnancy typically brings about a slew of aches and pains, sometimes in parts of the body you didn't expect to be affected, like swollen gums, stinging leg pain, and swollen or tender hands. But when it comes to parts of the body "connected" to the pregnancy process, it can be surprising to feel your vagina hurt during pregnancy before labor's anywhere near. (Luckily, it's also normal.)
"During pregnancy, your vagina may feel like it is hurting because there is more blood supply to that area, which makes the vaginal area more sensitive," Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, OB-GYN, tells Romper. "In addition, depending on the baby’s position, vaginal pain maybe due to an arm or a foot touching the cervix," she says. The latter is commonly referred to as "lightning crotch" by women, according to Self, and it likely feels similar to what it sounds like — something akin to a sharp, stabbing pain that feels like your baby is punching you in the crotch from the inside. Who says pregnancy isn't all butterflies and rainbows, right?
Apart from increased blood flow and random baby limbs, there's also just the fact that your body's adjusting to a whole lot of pressure. "Vaginal and pelvic soreness during pregnancy is most frequently caused by the body adjusting to new downward pressure," Dr. Mary Jacobson, Chief Medical Director at Alpha Medical tells Romper. Jacobsen notes that in early pregnancy, your uterus is expanding, which impacts the entire pelvic region, including joints, ligaments, bones, and the pelvic floor muscles that support the uterus, vagina, urethra, bladder, and rectum. Basically, you're that Leslie Knope gif: "Everything hurts."
But in later pregnancy, Jacobsen says your vagina and the surrounding area can hurt because of "the weight of the growing fetus and increasing levels of the hormone relaxin, which softens the cervix and further relaxes the pelvic ligaments."
You may find that even certain movements or normal daily things, like coughing, give you an achy twinge. As the ligaments that attach your uterus to your pelvis stretch and adjust in preparation for delivery, they can be sensitive to certain positions or movements. You might notice a sharp pain when you laugh, sneeze, or change position, according to the website for Dr. Sears. So that whole thing your body is doing to prepare your vagina to deliver a baby? Oh yeah, it also makes your vagina sore. A win-win!
As Self mentioned, too, the majority of nerves in the uterus are right by the cervix, so if anything presses on the cervix, it can stimulate those nerves and send you a sudden jolt of pain. A common pregnancy affliction — varicose veins — can also occur in your labia and vagina when pregnant, adding more discomfort to your discomfort. Because of all the pregnancy-induced pressure, as well as the increased blood flow in your pelvic area, bulging, painful varicose veins are a definite pregnancy possibility.
The good news is that this issue usually resolves itself within six weeks of delivery, according to Parents. Warm baths, lying on your left side, and elevating your feet can all relieve some of that pressure and pain in your pelvis. Regular exercise and not sitting for long periods of time also helps to increase overall blood flow and relieve pressure.
As Self noted, maternity compression pantyhose can also help blood flow and prevent pooling in the vagina, which can bring additional relief to your lightning crotch. Bonus, maternity pantyhose usually come up above your bellybutton and can offer an additional layer of clothing should the button on your jeans pop due to your growing belly (not that I'd know from experience).
Your body is constantly changing during pregnancy, and everyone's body adjusts to pregnancy differently each time. You may notice some pain during the beginning of your pregnancy and other pain as you progress. You might also notice that your pain and symptoms differ from one pregnancy to the next.
The comforting part is that most every pregnancy ache or pain is fairly common and offers no additional complication to your body or your baby's. Of course, there are exceptions to this, which is why it's always a good idea to have regular prenatal visits with your doctor and keep them updated on your various symptoms and pain. Their advice can offer you comfort or options for a little relief, but also serves to create conversation about what is typical and what is something to keep an eye on.
Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, OB-GYN
Dr. Mary Jacobson, Chief Medical Director at Alpha Medical
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