Lightning Crotch Pain: What It Is + How to Treat It

cartoon image of pregnant woman trying to put on shoes while experiencing lightning crotch

I couldn’t even utter words as I doubled over, gasped for air, and lept to my bed so I could lie down and try to forget the lightning pain that had just happened. It was intensely sharp.

A hot, stabbing, electric shock feeling in my vagina that thankfully only lasted a second because I don’t know how I’d have survived it lasting many more.

“What the hell was that?” I screamed to Husband as I writhed on the bed, afraid that stopping movement would bring back the shooting pain that had literally just taken me off my feet.

It wasn’t until three years later that I learned that horrific feeling had a colloquial name: lightning crotch.

The fact that I’d never come up with the word “lightning” in my description has left me seriously questioning my abilities as a writer who likes to believe she can describe anything.

I’d said “sharp,” “stabbing,” “hot,” “burning,” “breathtaking,” “jolt,” “shock,” “shooting.” But I’d never used the word lightning, and lightning is exactly what that feeling was.

A fiery bolt of lightning pierced my deep, inner vagina and instantly disappeared. But even though the pain left, there was a smoldering burn (and intense fear of return) in its wake.

Why had no one warned me of this quick-lived hell?

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What is Lightning Crotch?

Simply put, lightning crotch is a sudden, sharp pain deep in your vagina that rivals anything I’ve ever experienced. Kidney stones and childbirth were worse, but only because they lasted so much longer.

This stabbing vaginal pain occurs in the pelvic area of pregnant women. It’s fiery, seriously like an electric shock rapidly bolting through your body and then immediately out of it.

Lightning crotch comes and goes like a bolt of lightning–suddenly and intensely, without warning, and then gone.

That’s the good news. Unlike many other pregnancy aches and pains, lightning crotch comes and goes in seconds.

Sharp Pain In Your Vagina? Here’s Why You Feel It

Sorry to tell you, mama, but we aren’t 100% sure why lightning crotch pain is a curse some of us have to experience.

It’s most common in the third trimester, and some experts believe it’s caused by the growing baby’s head descending into the birth canal.

But since it happens earlier in some pregnancies, and occasionally outside of pregnancy, not all experts believe this is the only reason.

I asked one OBGYN, and she said she thinks it’s connected to round ligament pain, which plagued me from even the earliest days of pregnancy. This idea is echoed elsewhere.

In a 2019 article published in the Journal of Gender Studies, Boni Wozolek, PhD, describes lightning crotch as “an extreme shock” that is “medically known as round ligament pain.”

And while most doctors do recognize that round ligament pain and lightning crotch are not necessarily the same thing, many do seem to believe there’s a strong connection.

A related theory is that the baby kicks or puts pressure on a nerve ending. Nerve compression definitely jibes with the sensation I felt. This was EXACTLY how it felt when I experienced it.

While I haven’t found much medically reviewed evidence, the theory of nerve compression seems a strong one among the OBGYN’s I asked. This theory also connects with other possibilities, like that of round ligament pain.

“We don’t really know exactly what causes lightning crotch,” says Stephanie Slocum, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Health Central Women’s Care in Dallas, TX.

“It’s likely the baby descending into the birth canal and causing nerve compression. The round ligament goes down into the inguinal canal and may be a component.”

pregnant woman sitting on yoga mat doing stretches
While we aren’t sure exactly what causes lightning crotch pain, pelvic floor exercises can be effective in helping relieve it.

Is Lightning Crotch Dangerous?

We may not be certain about what causes lightning crotch, but we do know this. Lightning crotch pain is nothing to worry about (unless it doesn’t go away, then you should see a doctor immediately), even though it hurts like a mofo.

Tell your doctor or midwife if you have pelvic pain that doesn’t go away, vaginal bleeding, or other unusual pregnancy symptoms. But lightning crotch, which should last a few seconds, at most, is not a cause for concern.

That said, if you want to take the time to reiterate to your care provider what a problem this experience is, feel free. As Boni Wozolek, PhD accurately explains:

“The uncontrollable sensation of a sudden, sharp pain rocketing through your vaginal tissue that was caused by another being is certainly physically jarring. The fact that this pain is often not taken seriously by medical professionals as it is considered ‘routine pregnancy pain’ feeds into the systemic oppression around women’s bodies.

To be clear, should a man have an uncontrollable, piercing pain in his testicles, it would be treated as a signal for immediate medical attention, often replete with a battery of tests for a wide variety of possible concerns. Unlike the response many pregnant women receive for ‘routine’ pains, should a man’s testicular pain be diagnosed as ‘routine’, considerable efforts might be made to mitigate his discomfort.”

Boni Wozolek, PhD

Touché, Dr. Wozolek.

While lightning crotch is nothing to worry about in terms of your pregnancy, the lack of information about its cause and, thus, prevention is a serious problem. We do a know a little, and I’ll tell you more about it.

But still. Pregnant women deserve better, and reminding our doctors of that fact is a step in the right direction.

Tips for Relieving Lightning Crotch Pain

Relieving the pain from lightning crotch is a matter of prevention, not treatment.

After all, when it occurs, it only lasts seconds, so you can’t very well dash to your freezer and grab an ice pack. Hell, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to move at all.

And yet, the first tip for preventing lightning crotch pain is: MOVE!

(1) Change positions/move

While the causes of lightning crotch are still in question, many mamas report that it occurs most often when they have been lying still for a while.

Changing positions, or standing up and walking around regularly, can help.

Also, since most theories about the causes of lightning crotch relate to pressure caused by late pregnancy, you can relieve some of that pressure by standing up and moving around.

By doing so, hopefully you’ll also experience fewer instances of electric shocks jolting through your nether region.

(2) Avoid Single Leg Movements

When I first experienced the shocking sharp pain in my vagina, I was lifting one leg to put on pants. I nearly fell to the floor from the pain.

Dr. Lauren Keller is a pelvic floor specialist. She provides a list of exercises that help and hurt with Symphysis Pubic Dysfunction (SPD), a group of symptoms that cause pain in the pelvic floor, vagina, and lower back, usually during pregnancy. Lightning crotch falls under this category, although it is not synonymous with SPD.

In her list of exercises that help and hurt women with SPD, Dr. Keller points out that movements with only one leg can, for some women, exacerbate the pain of lightning crotch.

(3) Massage, Chiropractic, or Physiotherapy

According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), physiotherapy can “improve muscle function, and improve your pelvic joint position and stability.”

In other words, physical therapy, like pelvic floor therapy, can make a big difference in the experience of lightning crotch and other pelvic floor problems.

Research shared on the National Institute of Health website indicates that “conservative chiropractic management appears to reduce pain.” The same study showed potential benefits of prenatal massage.

(4) Wear a Support Brace or Support Garments

Wearing a good brace support likely won’t eliminate the pain entirely, but it can make a huge difference in the various pains you’ll experience in your groin, lower abdomen, and lower back in the latter part of pregnancy. Lightning crotch included.

Here are our favorite support products:

Louisa Ultra High-Waisted Support Leggings from Kindred Bravely

Pregnancy support leggings became a wardrobe staple when I was pregnant with Jack. They provide stabilizing support for your growing belly that helps reduce pelvic pain without having to wear an extra support band.

pregnant woman in white sports bra and black support leggings holding her belly with her hands

I love the Kindred Bravely ones as they’re comfortable and well-constructed to last long. The ultra-high waist is great for a growing belly and for support.

Bump Support Leggings by Belly Bandit

The benefits of these leggings are the same as those provided by the Kindred Bravely leggings; it’s really a matter of style preference.

woman with pregnant belly standing sideways showing her belly while wearing black bump support leggings

Belly Bandit is known for making top-of-the-line support wear for pregnant and postpartum moms, and these leggings won’t disappoint.

Blanqi Everyday Support Tank

I owned these in every color as they became an essential that I always wore under my tops if I wasn’t sporting support leggings that day. Support bands annoyed me, even though they helped the most, so finding products I was comfortable in, like these support tanks, made a huge difference in my daily comfort. 

Upsie Belly Support Band by Belly Bandit

While I LOVE support leggings and tanks, ultimately, the best support comes from a belly band, and Belly Bandit is known for being the best for a reason.

pregnant woman standing sideways with one hand on her belly support band

If you’re really sore or struggling a lot with belly pain, nothing can be better.

Have you experienced lightning crotch pain? Tell us how you’d describe it in the comments!

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