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Lightning Crotch – What Is Effacement?

Lightning Crotch

Recently, a laboring mother had us, her birth team, laughing and giggling with the words she used to describe the sensations she was having. 

A particularly funny phrase she kept using was “Lightning Crotch,” to describe a stinging, burning, pins and needles type of feeling right in the crotch, not during a contraction but in between or just after. It was short in duration like a pinch and not as painful or as long as a contraction. Vividly explained as lightning crotch! Whether she knew others had also used this exact phrase to describe this sensation or not, I do not know, but it sure makes the point.

Her midwife informed her that this feeling was most likely her cervix moving out of the way, in other words, effacement. (There may be other causes for this feeling at various stages of pregnancy, such as baby’s position or movement, but during labor it can be a result of effacement. Talk to your care provider if you are ever concerned.)

One of the physical changes that take place during labor is the effacement of your cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the womb, like a short hallway that leads you to main ballroom which is the uterus!

So what is effacement?

Effacement is the thinning of the cervix in preparation for birth. The baby engages in the pelvis and gradually drops closer to the cervix. The cervix gradually softens, shortens and becomes thinner until it is no longer protruding. You might hear phrases like “ripens,” or “cervical thinning” in reference to effacement.

One way to get a visual is to picture what happens when you are blowing up a balloon. As you fill it with air the neck of the balloon connected to the opening is getting shorter, and thinner and disappearing. It is becoming part of the rest of the balloon. It no longer sticks out like a neck because it is now stretched thin. It’s kind of the same idea with your cervix during labor. The baby is moving down and taking up more space at the bottom of the uterus and thereby stretching and effacing the cervix.

Effacement is measured using a percentage. When your cervix is completely effaced it is said to be 100% effaced.

Although there is nothing in particular you need to do to make effacement happen, other than relax and let things be – it helps to have an understanding of what is happening in your body during labor, especially when that event is accompanied by the wonderful sensation of “Lightning Crotch.”

I recall being kicked and punched in the crotch by my babies during pregnancy for sure. What a memory! However I do not remember experiencing the lightning crotch sensation during my labors and not all women do. But in my role as a doula I have certainly witnessed several mothers who have felt it.

Did you experience lightning crotch during labor?

About Christie Collbran

Christie Collbran is the owner and founder of Buddha Belly. Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power and has more than ten years of experience serving families as a doula.

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