What Is Lightning Crotch During Pregnancy?

It can feel as if your vagina is being shocked, but it's generally nothing to worry about.

Being pregnant can come with a host of surprising symptoms from unusual cravings and sudden acne problems, to mysterious pains like lightning crotch. 

Per the Johns Hopkins Medical Library, several changes happen during early pregnancy—including your breasts swelling and becoming tender, the area surrounding your nipples (also called the areola) becoming larger and darker, frequently urinating, feeling fatigued, and experiencing morning sickness, among others.

But you might not think intense, sporadic pain that feels like electric shocks in your vagina would be one of those changes. Coined "lightning crotch," the affliction can happen to some people during pregnancy.

So, what causes "lightning crotch," and how can you treat and prevent the pain? Here's what you should know.

What Is Lightning Crotch?

Have you ever had sudden shooting pains in your vaginal or pelvic area during pregnancy? Well, chances are you may have experienced a lightning crotch. 

Per the American Pregnancy Association (APA), lightning crotch can feel like a pins-and-needles sensation. But thankfully, the jolt of pain is brief, lasting just a few seconds. Talk to your healthcare provider immediately if it lasts longer than a minute or is accompanied by other symptoms. 

According to the APA, those other symptoms can include dizziness, vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, or severe headaches.

What Causes Lightning Crotch?

Several factors can cause the condition. Often, the position of the fetus puts pressure on the nerves around the bottom of the uterus, causing pain.

Lightning crotch could also be caused by a condition known as symphysis pubis dysfunction, according to Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

In that case, changes to the pubic symphysis—a joint between the left and right pubic bones—trigger lightning crotch. The hormone relaxin, produced during pregnancy, causes the pubic symphysis to separate at least two to three millimeters in preparation for delivery, and this separation can cause pain. 

On the other hand, according to a study published in 2021 in Nature Scientific Reports, the pubic symphysis gap usually is about four to five millimeters in nonpregnant people.

"Some people feel a zip of pain, while some people feel chronically achy," explained Dr. Minkin.

Not all pregnant people experience it. And a person can have lightning crotch—or symphysis pubis dysfunction—during one pregnancy but not every pregnancy.

Although it's rare, symphysis pubis dysfunction may last after childbirth. Typically, your pubic symphysis widens no greater than one centimeter during pregnancy and before vaginal childbirth to help dilate your cervix. However, according to a report published in 2022 by the National Library of Medicine, if the joint widens greater than that amount, it can cause much pain.

Postpartum symphysis pubis dysfunction can hinder your ability to care for your newborn, so treating the condition is essential. Nonsurgical treatments include using a pelvic binder, physical therapy, and bed rest. 

Is Lightning Crotch a Sign of a Problem?

No, confirmed Dr. Minkin. Lightning crotch may be disruptive and painful, but it's not dangerous. "People can experience this substantially before labor," explained Dr. Minkin. 

However, if lightning crotch is accompanied by lower back pain, nausea, consistent contractions, and blood-tinged vaginal discharge, those are signs of labor, according to MedlinePlus. In that case, getting to the hospital as soon as possible is essential.

How To Ease or Prevent Lightning Crotch

Not a lot can be done to prevent or treat episodes of lightning crotch, and they typically resolve on their own. 

"Usually, sitting down or changing position can be beneficial because it takes the pressure of the uterus off of the rest of the pelvis," explained Dr. Minkin. Dr. Minkin also recommended trying a belly support belt or girdle to help with pelvic support. A heating pad or over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever may also work. 

"As long as [the pain goes] away, it's nothing to worry about," said Dr. Minkin.

While it might not be comfortable—and can be downright painful—lightning crotch isn't anything to worry about. But if you're unsure, consult your healthcare provider. It's always better to be safe than sorry, especially during pregnancy.


Sharp shooting sensations in your vaginal or pelvic region may not be the most common change that happens during pregnancy, but they may happen.

Normally, the position of the fetus or the separation of your pubis symphysis joint causes that pain. However, if you notice that your lighting crotch is accompanied by other, more severe symptoms—including dizziness, vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, fever, or severe headaches—see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

And if you think that you may be experiencing signs of labor, go to the hospital immediately.

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