So one of the things I get asked frequently during pregnancy is if it’s normal to have vaginal pain during the pregnancy. It’s extremely common to have vaginal pain in pregnancy, but there are several things that you should think about when you are experiencing this, and there are things that you should know to tell your OB. So the things that we consider when I hear “vaginal pain” are: What is the type of pain? How long have they had it? And does anything make it better or worse? The reason we ask those questions is to figure out if it’s a pain that is normal and is just a complication of the fetus developing during pregnancy, or if it’s something that could be a sign of a problem with pregnancy. One of the first questions that your OB will ask is: What does the pain feel like? One of the most common symptoms of vaginal pain, particularly in the 3rd trimester, is a very sharp shooting pain down into the vaginal area from the upper abdomen. That is a very normal type of pain. It’s usually without prompt. It usually goes away quickly, and doesn’t leave any lasting pain symptoms with it. That’s most likely a nerve pain related to pressure from the fetal head, or whatever the fetal presenting part is on the pelvic nerve. As you get further and further in pregnancy, those pains become more common because the baby’s head is a lot larger, and it tends to put more pressure on those nerves with everyday movement and normal activities. We don’t worry about that pain as long as it comes and goes.
There’s also pain that can be symptoms of early labor or labor that’s on time. That type of vaginal pain will more often be a cramping type of pain, like a menstrual cramp or sometimes more intense, radiating to the back or the low back. That type of pain that tends to come and go in waves is more concerning for a contraction. If you’re full term, meaning past 37 weeks, or even close to full term, your obstetrician may not be concerned about that, because it just may be early labor, especially if it’s not consistent. If you’re preterm, meaning before 37 weeks, that symptom can be more concerning, particularly if you’re very preterm, and your body shouldn’t really be having regular contractions. So if you’re experiencing waves of pain that feel more like a menstrual cramp that can radiate down into the vaginal area, that would be something to let your obstetrician know, regardless of where you are in the pregnancy.