Pregnancy Signs of Pregnancy Pregnancy Symptoms What to Know About Lightning Crotch Pain During Pregnancy Lightning crotch is a quick, sharp, shooting pain in the pelvis during the third trimester. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and how to find relief. By Nicole Harris Updated on April 25, 2023 Medically reviewed by Kiarra King, M.D. Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article What Is Lightning Crotch? Symptoms What Does Lightning Crotch Pain Feel Like? Causes When To Expect Lightning Crotch Prevention When To See a Doctor You're nearing the end of your pregnancy, minding your own business, when you suddenly feel a shooting pain "down there." The sensation lasts less than a minute, then it goes away as quickly as it came. Sound familiar? This phenomenon is known as lightning crotch pain, and it's a common third trimester complaint. Keep reading to learn about lightning crotch causes, symptoms, and prevention methods. What Is Lightning Crotch? Lightning crotch is a strange symptom that happens in the last four to six weeks of pregnancy. It's characterized by shooting pains that originate in the crotch or groin area and possibly travel down the inner thigh, says Joyce Gottesfeld, M.D., OB-GYN for Kaiser Permanente in Denver. What Is Lightning Crotch? Lightning crotch is a shooting pain that originates in the crotch or groin area during pregnancy. It comes on suddenly and lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. This common symptom isn't usually cause for concern. Contrary to what you may have heard, lightning crotch is not the same as round ligament pain, which happens when the ligaments around your uterus stretch to accommodate the baby. It's also sometimes mistaken for sciatica and varicose veins, but these conditions occur for different reasons, and they tend to show up earlier than the third trimester. 24 Weird-But-Normal Pregnancy Symptoms You Might Not Have Expected Lightning Crotch Symptoms With lightning crotch, people experience shooting pains that stem from the groin area. The sensation may travel down the inner thigh, says Dr. Gottesfeld. Lightning pain twinges generally happen randomly, but they're most common when you haven't moved positions in the while (for example, when you're sleeping in bed or sitting on the couch). The pain comes on suddenly and lasts anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds. What Does Lightning Crotch Pain Feel Like? Pregnant people may describe lightning crotch pain as the following sensations: Electric shocksShooting pins and needlesBurning twinges The symptoms may be barely perceptible, or they can be so intense that you double over in pain. Aside from the pelvis, you might also feel lightning crotch pain in the vagina, rectum, or uterus. 20 Causes of Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy and When to Call a Doctor What Causes Lightning Crotch? Lightning crotch may not be a serious condition, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt! If you're scratching your head about what could be causing the pain, here are a few common reasons. Your baby is dropping Sometimes the reason for lightning crotch pain is because of the baby's position in the womb. At the end of pregnancy, the fetus typically gets into the proper position for delivery (head down, facing your back) by descending into the birth canal. As this happens, a person's pelvic bones "pull away and separate," says Dr. Gottesfeld. The baby's head might also press against your cervix, and their body parts could hit sensitive nerve endings near the pubic bone. All of this inner commotion can lead to lightning crotch pain. Your pubic bones are separating A study published by Scientific Reports showed that one cause of lightning crotch might have to do with the pubis symphysis, which is a small joint located in the lower center area between the pubic bones. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin can help the pubic bones separate in preparation for birth, but in some cases that separation can cause brief pain known as lightning crotch. Your baby is growing stronger Lightening crotch pain can also come from fetal movements. Your growing baby is getting stronger every day, which is a wonderful thing. What's not so wonderful is when those little kicks nail you right in a nerve, sending extra sharp pains rippling through you. You can try moving around to help your baby shift enough to stop kicking you hard enough to see stars. You might have an underlying condition Lightening crotch in early pregnancy may be due to other things, like a possible bladder infection or nerve disorders, including fibromyalgia. If you are concerned about repeat pain and you suspect an infection, talk to your doctor. Causes of Lightning Crotch Pain Your baby is descending into the birth canalThe pubic bones are separating in preparation for birthYour baby kicks you near a sensitive nerve endingYou might have an underlying condition, such as a bladder infection or fibromyalgia When To Expect Lightning Crotch Lightning crotch generally presents in the third trimester as your body prepares for delivery. The severity depends on your baby's position and size, as well as the pressure they put on your nerve endings. Pain might increase as your baby moves around inside the womb. You can expect the lightning crotch pain to disappear after your little one is born. It's also important to note that not every person experiences this sensation during pregnancy. How to Ease Pregnancy Aches and Pains Preventing Lightning Crotch Pain Because lightning crotch lasts for less than a minute, it's hard to stop the shooting sensations. Your best bet is patiently waiting things out. Dr. Gottesfeld also recommends sitting down and stretching when the pain hits because changing positions can help move your baby into a better location. Pregnant people can also take steps to prevent lightning crotch from happening in the first place, including: Changing positions throughout the day Exercising regularly (cardio and stretching) to keep the pelvis and hips flexible Wearing a belly support belt to relieve pelvic pressure Relaxing tight muscles with a prenatal massage or warm bath When To See a Doctor Pelvic pain is common during pregnancy. Besides lightning crotch, pelvic pain can have many other causes, including round ligament pain, sciatica, or varicose veins (although these conditions will generally present as aching or pulling pain instead of sharp pain). It doesn't hurt to bring up your symptoms with your doctor so they can properly diagnose it, says Dr. Gottesfeld. It's especially important to visit your prenatal health care provider if the pain is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms, such as bleeding, dizziness, fever, severe headaches, blurry vision, or leaking fluid—all of which could indicate an infection or complication. Even though lightning crotch pain happens late in the third trimester, it's not a sign of impending labor. However, some people might confuse intense lightning pain for contractions—especially if they're a first-time parent. Call your doctor about lightning crotch pain if: The pain is accompanied by backache or blood-tinged dischargeYou have pain that increases in duration or intensityThe pain comes at regular intervalsThe pain feels like strong menstrual cramps These signs could indicate that you're actually in labor. And when in doubt, you should always call your doctor or midwife if you have any questions about the pain you're experiencing during pregnancy, especially if you're preterm or less than 37 weeks pregnant. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. A case–control study of clinical characteristics and risk factors of symptomatic postpartum pubic symphysis diastasis. Sci Rep. 2021.