Just when you thought you knew all the pregnancy aches and ouches, here comes a shocking surprise: lightning crotch!

What is lightning crotch?

With a name that sounds a little like a playground insult, lightning crotch may not seem like an official diagnosis, but it’s the common term for a sudden sharp or shooting pain in the vagina, rectum, or pelvis, mostly commonly during the third trimester. While not dangerous, it can be very surprising and uncomfortable. Some women have compared the feeling to an electric shock! For others, it’s more of a tingle that radiates down the legs. Luckily, the jolt usually subsides as lightning quick as it arrived.

What causes lightning crotch?

We think lightning crotch is caused by pressure from the baby on your cervix or on nerve endings in the pelvis. It typically occurs late in pregnancy and may intensify when the baby “drops” their head down into the lower part of your pelvis. You’ll notice lightning crotch seems  to occur when you’re making a sudden movement, like getting up quickly or sneezing! Your baby’s movements…kicking, stretching…can also spark lightning crotch.

Is lightning crotch a sign of labor?

Lightning crotch on its own is not a sign of labor. For some women, those irksome zaps can come and go for weeks leading up to delivery. However, if you’re experiencing it in combination with other early signs of labor…say, bloody mucus, regular contractions, back aches…then yes, it may be related to your cervix dilating (opening). 

How can I tell the difference between lightning crotch and dangerous pelvic pain?

This quick sting doesn’t last more than a few seconds and is not accompanied by fever, bleeding, or strong contractions. Any of those would be a good reason to ring up your OB or midwife.

How to reduce lightning crotch pain:

There’s a Nobel Prize out there for the person who figures out how to prevent lightning crotch, but there are a few things that some moms swear by as worth trying to ease the jolt when it happens:

  • Get up and move! Changing position can reduce the pressure.  
  • Lay down! Getting off your feet can reduce the downward pressure pinching things in your pelvis.
  • Wear a belly band. For some women, a support brace helps better distribute the weight of the baby.
  • Take a warm (not hot) bath or even go swimming. That weightless floating can help ease the intensity of the pressure.   
  • Try a pregnancy massage. If the pampering doesn’t fix the pain, at least it will relax you.

Lightning crotch isn’t fun, but it’s no cause for alarm. Call your practitioner if the pain does not go away or if other concerns pop up, such as fever or bleeding. Otherwise, take it easy and before you know it your baby will arrive…and that’s the real cure for this pain in the bum. 

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.