Pregnancy and postpartum bring many changes to our bodies, some wonderful and a few that are less desirable. One of those changes that I found on the less desirable side was lightning crotch. It is as unpleasant and sharp as it sounds. I was reminded of this pain while having to ride my husband’s larger bike this week as mine was out of commission, but even then, the pain was not the same. So what is Lightning Crotch? Why does it happen? Why Am I still experiencing lightning crotch postpartum? Let’s find out:
- What Is Lightning Crotch and What Does It Feel Like?
- Why Didn’t It Go Away After Having My Baby?
- Tips for Relief
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What Is Lightning Crotch and What Does It Feel Like?
Lighting crotch is pretty much what it sounds like. A quick intense, jolting or stabbing pain in the vagina that then disappears. It seems to come out of nowhere and can pull you to your knees. And then leaves just as quickly. Do you know that feeling of hitting your funny bone? It’s jolting, jarring, tingly, and then within seconds is gone again. That is a bit of what it feels like, but in your vagina.
What Causes It?
There is no clear reason or specific cause of vaginal pain aka lightning crotch. Some of the main theories include hormones, nerve pain, and vulvar varicose veins.
There are many different hormones released during pregnancy, one of which is relaxin. Relaxin is released by your ovaries and placenta to help loosen ligaments and joints in preparation for birth. For some women, their body produces more relaxin than others, causing their ligaments in the pelvic region to stretch further and loosen more which can cause lightning crotch. These loosenings can also cause round ligament pain, which is different from lightning crotch.
You also have a bundle of nerves from your uterus and cervix near each other and when there is pressure (from a baby perhaps) you will experience that lightning pain in your vagina. This could also be why many women feel an increase in lightning crotch pain in their third trimester and close to their due date.
Vulvar Varicose Veins
Sometimes this pain can also come from your vulvar varicose veins that form on your vulva (outer genitals). Many of us develop varicose veins on our legs, but we may not realize that we can also develop varicose veins on our vulvas during pregnancy. This may throw you for a 180, but it is normal, I promise! It is due to the increase of blood in the pelvic floor area because of baby. While simultaneously a pooling of blood in that area as blood flow to the heart is slower. That blood pooling can cause tingly lightning pain. Yay for all the pregnancy nuances we may not have known about!
When Does It Happen?
The three most common ways that lightning crotch seems to occur is through baby movement, a lack of movement on Mom’s part, and yet also certain movements on Mom’s part. This probably sounds confusing, let’s see if we can explain it more.
Whenever the baby is moving or turning and kicking, they put pressure on that bundle of nerves above your cervix and it can cause the lightning sensation. This generally intensifies as baby begins to shift downward and into the pelvis in preparation for birth in the third trimester.
Mom’s Lack of Movement
Lightning crotch can also come from lack of movement on Mom’s part. If we stand or sit for too long in one position we can also feel this sensation.
Sometimes we trigger the pain by our movements and positions. Like getting out of bed or getting in and out of cars. Going down steps where we pull on our loosey goosey ligaments can cause that pain to shoot through our vagina.I have vulvar varicose veins, if I am on my period while on my feet a lot, I will also feel a “full feeling” from them occasionally.
If you ever have pain that goes beyond lighting crotch symptoms accompanied by spotting or blood, let your healthcare provider know.
Why Didn’t It Go Away After Having My Baby?
There is no one cause of why lightning crotch or vaginal pain may still be occurring for you postpartum. I am so sorry that this did not resolve through birth. Some think that it can range from the impact of pregnancy on your body to your postpartum recovery. After looking through different sites and chat rooms, I can tell you one thing though, you are not alone. Many women have this occur postpartum as well.
Many believe the same causes during pregnancy are the causes during postpartum. Though perhaps, not the baby pressing down on our cervix part!
Hormones are still running rampant, many ligaments still have not tightened yet, the pressure of our uterus trying to shrink is pressing down on nerve endings in the cervix, and we still likely have vulvar varicose veins. So unfortunately, it’s normal to still have some lightning crotch pain postpartum.
If persistent pelvic pain is occurring or getting worse accompanied with cramping, it is worth talking to your OBGYN and to seek out pelvic floor specialists. They can see if there is any pelvic floor dysfunction that could be contributing to your pain or other causes.
Tips For Getting Relief
While there is no one size fits all, you can try and see if any of these can help your pain go down. There is not a way to stop it all together, but we can try to alleviate it!
Always check with a healthcare provider before doing certain things or exercises. What may be appropriate for one mother postpartum may not be appropriate for you based on your health history, birthing experience, and where you are at in the healing process.
Wearing a belly support band during pregnancy and postpartum can help to relieve much of the tension and pressure in the pelvic floor area. Wearing compression garments can also help with blood flow and may decrease the pain or “full” feeling coming from vulvar veins.
Simply changing positions often and not sitting or standing in one spot too long can help relieve pressure. Try to keep your knees together as you transition from positions, especially from bed to floor or in and out of a car.
Swimming, during pregnancy and postpartum to relieve swollen joints and even varicose veins is wonderful. Check with your healthcare provider when would be an appropriate time to go postpartum, as there is a higher risk of infection during the healing period.
Warm baths can help to relieve aches and pains and can soothe lightning crotch. As you probably don’t want to bathe in and with lochia (vaginal discharge post birth) check with your healthcare provider when a good time may be to avoid risk of infection
Movement and Exercise
Always check with your healthcare provider and with pelvic floor specialists on movement that is ok during pregnancy and postpartum. However, gentle movements have so many benefits for our mental and physical health (check out our article on the benefits of walking). There are many exercises that can help to strengthen and support ligaments to relieve pressure that can cause lightning crotch.
Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is needed with nerve functioning and can help in muscle spasms and cramps. If you do not want to supplement with magnesium you can always look into magnesium rich foods as well. For all magnesium postpartum and breastfeeding questions check out our comprehensive blog post.
Pregnancy and postpartum can bring a slew of symptoms along with aches and pains that we may not have fully known about, including lightning crotch. The good news is that the pain comes and goes quickly. The bad news, it may stick around longer than you were hoping it would, even into postpartum. Our bodies don’t immediately “bounce back,” they take time to heal. By following some of the tips in this article, hopefully you can alleviate your lightning crotch pain! Let us know if you’ve experienced this postpartum and/or anything that helped you!
Niki Cowan has a background in Medicine and Public Health. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist as well as a Medical Assistant. She’s passionate about Women’s Health and empowering women in their journeys. She is married to her wonderful husband Kevin, and they have an active son. While trying to have another little one hasn’t worked out yet, she is pursuing her passions and hoping to gain further education and experience in the area she loves, while playing with her son. She’s an avid reader, Original Great British Baking Show watcher, and very amateur kickboxer.