Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Pregnancy comes with all kinds of body weirdness and discomfort. Your parts are stretching and shifting, you’re practically drunk on hormones, and it may feel like you’re waking up in a stranger’s body every morning. There will be pains — some expected and some out of left field.
Maybe you thought vaginal pain would come up only during delivery, but then you felt a bolt of lightning through your nethers. What fresh hell is this, you ask?
Yes, “lightning crotch” is a thing. Women say it feels like a sudden shooting pain or electric shock through the vagina, rectum, or pelvis. Isn’t Mother Nature fun?
Here’s what you need to know when your hoo-ha hurts and how to get relief.
“Relaxin” sounds like a hormone that would let you just chill and be that calm Earth mama, growing with her baby — which isn’t too far from the truth. Your ovaries and placenta produce this hormone, with levels increasing throughout pregnancy.
It helps your ligaments and joints loosen to accommodate your expanding belly and prepares your cervix to soften and open for delivery. As your ligaments and joints begin to stretch and relax, you may have pain in your pelvic area.
Increased hormones and blood flow can also cause cervical sensitivity, which you might notice during sex or gyno exams.
Pressure from your growing belly will continue to tweak your muscles and nerves as your baby grows. Research has found higher levels of relaxin in women who experience pelvic girdle pain (PGP) during pregnancy.
About 1 in 5 pregnant women have PGP. It’s a real pain in the vag but is not harmful to your baby. You may feel PGP in the middle of your pubic bone, in your lower back, in your perineum, and/or down your thighs.
Let’s break down a few other causes of vaginal discomfort.
Weak, incompetent, insufficient — those may sound like harsh words, but an incompetent cervix can devastate a pregnancy. All those terms describe a cervix that opens too early in pregnancy, causing early delivery or pregnancy loss.
Symptoms often start in the second trimester and include pelvic pressure or discomfort, backache, abdominal cramps, a change in vaginal discharge, and light vaginal bleeding.
Pelvic organ prolapse
Injury to muscles and connective tissue of your pelvic floor can result in pelvic organ prolapse, when the vaginal wall, cervix, or uterus descends toward the opening of the vagina.
This damage can occur during pregnancy, vaginal delivery, or pelvic surgeries or as a result of activities or conditions that cause increased pressure in the abdomen, like coughing, constipation, and heavy lifting.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
While sex is generally safe throughout pregnancy (ask your doctor if you should avoid sex because of individual risks), it might not always feel that great, for a few reasons:
- Changes in hormones can cause vaginal dryness.
- Pelvic girdle pain might make it too painful to even roll over in bed, much less bump and grind.
- Extra blood flow and swelling during pregnancy may make your cervix more sensitive. This can result in discomfort and light bleeding during or after sex.
- Hormones released during orgasm can cause mild cramping or contractions. Yikes! Still, these are harmless and shouldn’t last more than a few hours.
- Many women report more pain and less satisfaction as pregnancy progresses. (*sad trombone*)
Vaginal pain is not a sign of labor, but it’s important to report any new symptoms to your healthcare provider. Know these signs of early labor to help you and your doctor determine if you’re at risk for preterm labor:
- contractions that are regular and increasingly close together
- lower back pain and cramping that don’t improve
- your water breaking -— even if it’s just a trickle
- bloody mucus discharge (a sign that your cervix is opening for delivery)
- Your body changes drastically during pregnancy as things shift, grow, and stew in a mix of hormones.
- The hormone relaxin causes your joints to loosen and your cervix to soften and open for delivery.
- A twinge down below could be caused by several factors. Check your other symptoms to figure out the likely cause.
- Light physical activity, relaxation, and strengthening are some of the keys to dealing with pregnancy pains.
- Aches and pains are common in pregnancy. But they’re worth a mention to your doctor, especially if the pain is new, doesn’t subside, or is accompanied by other symptoms like bleeding or unusual discharge.