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    Vaginal Pain During Pregnancy: Why It Happens and What to Do About It

    Updated 18 July 2022 |
    Published 03 October 2019
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Anna Targonskaya
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    During pregnancy, it’s normal to experience pain throughout the body, such as in the lower back, breasts, and abdomen. Vaginal pain, however, typically begins in the second trimester and can occur till delivery. Let’s discuss symptoms, causes, and treatments.

    Causes of vaginal pain during pregnancy

    A growing fetus, dilation of the cervix, increased blood flow to the vagina, and fungal infections can all contribute to vaginal pain during pregnancy.

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    Growing fetus

    As your baby and your uterus grow, your pelvic ligaments stretch to accommodate the extra weight. When ligaments and vaginal muscles are overstretched, it can cause a sharp, shooting pain. If you’re already feeling vaginal pain in the first trimester, though, be sure to consult your doctor.

    Dilation of the cervix

    Dilation refers to the eventual opening of your cervix. Occasionally, cervical dilation is to blame for sharp, shooting vaginal pains in the final stages of pregnancy. This is a perfectly normal process that helps the body prepare for labor and delivery. But should the pain present in the lower abdomen, consult a doctor right away.

    During labor, uterine contractions open the cervix while the baby moves into the proper position. Effacement (when the cervix stretches and thins) and dilation allow the baby to pass through the birthing canal. This happens near the end of the third trimester, but varies with each individual. Some people start to efface and dilate over several weeks, and others shortly before the baby is born. First-time moms might not dilate until they’re in actual labor. An OB-GYN may check the cervix manually to monitor progress as part of prenatal care.

    Increased blood flow

    Increased blood flow to the vagina, accompanied by heavy vaginal discharge, are normal during pregnancy. Higher levels of estrogen and progesterone produce these changes. The increased overall volume of blood can cause vaginal discomfort or pain.

    Fungal infections

    If you’re experiencing vaginal pain during pregnancy and suspect it’s the result of a fungal infection, talk to your physician. The most common infection is candida (yeast infection), which is common during pregnancy because of compromised immunity. 

    During pregnancy, recovering from candida might take longer than usual, as healthcare providers hesitate to prescribe cortisone medications. Consider treating it with an OTC antifungal cream or suppositories. Just remember to discuss this with your doctor first.

    Lightning pain

    Sometimes pain originating in the pelvic ligaments as they stretch to accommodate a baby can cause startling pain. It can be shocking enough to make some people think they’ve gone into labor. This is called lightning pain.

    Some women naturally produce more relaxin and progesterone hormones, encouraging extra stretching and loosening of the ligaments. When round ligaments are stretched too quickly, it produces a sensation similar to that of lightning shooting through your crotch. 

    In certain cases, this does actually signal the start of labor. Constant back or lightning pain, contractions, or fluid leakage are all signs that the baby could be on their way. If you observe any of the above symptoms prior to 37 weeks, seek medical attention.

    Ectopic pregnancy

    Another potential cause of vaginal pain is ectopic pregnancy. This is when the fertilized egg implants anywhere other than the uterus. Most often, the fertilized egg will attach inside a uterine tube.

    Ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried to term. The fertilized egg is unable to survive outside of the uterus. In certain cases, an ectopic pregnancy may cause the uterine tube to rupture, resulting in vaginal pain, bleeding, lightheadedness, and nausea. Seek medical help if you show any signs of ectopic pregnancy.

    How to cope with vaginal pain during pregnancy