Medically reviewed by Dr Kristy June Dinampo.
Let’s Talk Lightening Crotch
If you’ve ever watched a Hollywood film, one in which the heroin of the story is pregnant, you’ll see this nine months’ stretch of time painted as some wonderful, bountiful period of joy and pleasure. There are stalks, there are baby showers, there are photo shoots, and not a stretch mark in sight. The most you ever see this heroine suffer is when she might experience morning sickness a few times, before that fated ‘positive’ sign on the stick she peed on. From there, it’s baby shopping, joyful scans, and pain-free labor.
Ladies, if this is your first pregnancy, you’re in for a shock.
Real-life pregnancy is nothing like it is in the films. Real-life pregnancy can be strange, it can be full of funky things you’re not sure whether are normal or not, and it can also be an uncomfortable and even painful time on occasion. Hollywood has a lot to answer for.
Of course, the buy-off in all of this is that at the end, you get to meet your little bundle of joy who is currently cooking in your womb. If you can keep that thought in your mind throughout pregnancy’s strange and sometimes uncomfortable times, you’ll be much more focused.
Many women falsely think that the pain in the third trimester only comes when labor begins, but there is a strange anomaly that can sometimes happen, and nobody ever really talks about it.
Have you heard of lightening crotch?
Yes, you heard that right.
What is Lightening Crotch? What Does it Feel Like?
Lightening crotch is a very strange experience to describe. Many women describe it as small shots of lightening in the vagina, almost like electric bolts – hence the name. Some women also say it feels like their baby has turned on them and has started stabbing them from the inside downwards! Of course, this isn’t the case, you don’t have a demon growing in your womb, and it’s all got a very natural explanation.
Vaginal pain, aka lightening crotch, is a common occurrence during the third trimester, but for some strange reason it’s an occurrence that you don’t hear much about. Perhaps this is why many women experience it and become super-worried that they’re going into early labor. We need to talk about this more, to reassure pregnant ladies the world over that there really is nothing particularly adverse going on, even though it really is quite painful.
Sorry ladies, there is pain to be felt before labor, we can’t lie and sugar-coat it. If you do experience lightening crotch, it’s going to hurt. The thing is, it’s a normal way of your body getting ready to give birth – but not yet!
Lightening crotch, or vaginal pain, occurs because the nerves which sit in your uterus are very close to your cervix in their anatomy. When nerves are irritated or strained, i.e. due to carrying a baby around in your womb for almost nine months, they tell you about it by emitting what are literally small pulses of electricity. Hence the name, lightening.
Is Lightening Crotch a Sign of Labor?
No, but it’s not far away by this point. Lightening crotch can be cause my a lot of different things, including:
- Your baby growing
- Your baby stretching him or herself outwards to get more comfortable as they become bigger
- Your baby descending down into the pelvis, as labor draws closer
- Pressure on your cervix by this descent
- Varicose veins on your labia (yes, that’s a thing)
All of these are totally normal occurrences during pregnancy and are natural. You could therefore say that lightening crotch is a side effect of your body getting ready to give birth. Of course, that doesn’t mean that birth is totally imminent, but it does mean that it’s not going to be months away either. See, there’s a silver lining to evening, even electric shocks in your vagina!
Does Lightening Crotch Mean I’m Dilating?
We mentioned that if you’re experiencing lightening crotch that it means labor isn’t that far away. That’s true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dilating. Your baby is going to come when he or she is ready, and it’s not something you’re going to be able to rush – babies are stubborn little things!
Now, lightening crotch can be a sign that you are dilating, although not a definite. The pain can be caused by the pressure on your cervix as your baby descends down into the pelvis in readiness for birth, but dilation can take a while. Just because you’re dilated, even up to 2cm, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is about to get into action. Call it a prelude, and we can’t tell you for sure how long that prelude will last for.
Does Lightening Crotch Disappear?
You might experience it once, you might experience it a few times, you might experience it constantly throughout the last few weeks of your pregnancy, but when you give birth, it will go away. There is no longer any pressure on your cervix, there are no longer any strained or upset nerves, everything will become less painful and more harmonious.
If you’re reading this and getting a little worried about the potential to suffer from lightening crotch, don’t be. It is a possibility, but it’s not a definite. Even if you experience it once or twice, that’s not to say it is going to be that bad for you. We’re all different. Some women are bed-ridden with morning sickness in the first trimester, whilst some don’t even notice it at all. Lightening crotch is an individual kind of deal, and it’s entirely natural.
Of course, if you are experiencing vaginal pain which you’re worried about, you should mention this to your doctor or midwife, to get it checked out, but if it turns out to be lightening crotch, which is likely, then it’s nothing to be overly concerned about at all.