It might sound alarming, but lightning crotch, also known as pubic symphysis dysfunction, is actually pretty common. Up to 30% of pregnant women will experience this pain, often towards the end of their pregnancy, according to research in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.
What is lightning crotch?
There’s no shortage of discomfort when you’re pregnant, but in the weeks leading up to your due date, you might start to notice sharp, shooting pains that feel like they’re radiating into your vagina.
Commonly called lightning crotch, for obvious reasons, it’s caused by the baby getting into position for delivery and descending into your pelvis. The pain goes away as quickly as it arrives, which means there isn’t much to be done treatment-wise.
Lightening crotch is not a sign of active labor. It is a sign that your body is getting ready for labor. It may start a few weeks before delivery. —Dr. Jessica White-Videa
What does it feel like?
Women say lightning crotch feels like a sharp, shooting pain around the vagina. It’s often described as a lightning bolt of pain or a quick electric shock. The pain usually goes away quickly.
- Sharp, random pelvic pain
- Shooting pain
- Electric jolt
- Pain that radiates into the vagina or sometimes down the thigh
- Burning sensation
What causes lightning crotch?
Lightning crotch happens because your baby is getting ready for delivery. In the weeks leading up to your due date, your baby starts to descend into your pelvis. During this process, the baby moves and makes contact with your cervix, which can cause sharp pain. Around this time, your baby may also change positions, putting even more pressure on nerve endings in this area and causing quick bursts of pain.
Another potential cause of lightning crotch is the changing hormones that occur during pregnancy. The hormone relaxin causes the pubic bones to relax and separate (it’s your body’s way of preparing to deliver your baby). This process can make the pelvic bones unstable and misaligned, which can be painful.
Is it bad to have lightning crotch during early pregnancy?
If you experience pain similar to lightning crotch before you are at 37 weeks, you should speak to your doctor.
Other issues, such as a urinary tract infection or preterm labor, can cause a similar pain, but it’s often with other symptoms (burning with urination, having to urinate even more frequently than normal, and hardening of the abdomen, for example). If you have had a Caesarean section in the past and feel sharp pain earlier in your current pregnancy, call your doctor immediately to make sure everything is ok.
Regardless of how far along you are in your pregnancy, always call your doctor if you’re experiencing bleeding, abnormal discharge, severe abdominal pain, or an inability to walk.
I recently had a baby and experienced lightning crotch. I dealt with the pain by receiving chiropractic care on a regular basis. I also had to use a pregnancy support belt. Both the treatments and belt helped decrease my discomfort and allowed me to work up until the day I delivered. —Dr. White-Videa
All pregnant women are at risk of developing lightning crotch. But some women are more likely to experience it, such as those who have had trauma to their pubic bones, whether from an accident or a prior pregnancy and delivery.
How to relieve the pain
Pain caused by lightning crotch is very sudden and sharp, but it goes away as quickly as it starts. You will probably not need to do anything to treat it. When the pain starts, your body will naturally stop whatever activity you’re doing, which is the best thing you can do.
There is not much you can do to prevent lightning crotch (except have your baby!), but you can try a few things to make the pain less intense.
- Wear a pregnancy belt/support brace.
- Try chiropractic care.
- Do yoga.
Non-pregnant women can also experience lightning crotch. —Dr. White-Videa
Dr. White-Videa is a board-certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree in 2002, in Psychology from Barnard College in New York City . Dr. White-Videa then attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) starting in 2005. During that time, she participated in several medical mission trips and also mentored high school students who wanted to pursue careers in medicine. Dr White-Videa graduated from PCOM in 2009 and went on to complete her residency at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Obstetrics and Gynecology (2013). In 2013, she moved to South Florida where she met her husband and now has two sons.
Currently, Dr White-Videa is in private practice in Margate, FL. Dr. White-Videa believes that the relationship an OB/GYN has with their patients is one of a kind. She enjoys being a part of some the most significant milestones in a woman's life. Educating and empowering women at different stages of their life to make the best decisions as their reproductive and gynecological needs change is her ultimate goal. Dr White-Videa joined Buoy Health in 2020 as a medical writer and looks forward to using this platform as another way to continue her mission of educating and empowering women.