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10 Things You Should Know About Crowning During Birth — The “Ring of Fire”

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I think that crowning during birth which is also know as the ring of fire, is something that makes many moms nervous, and understandably so.

I mean, there’s an entire human body that needs to make it’s way out into the world through the vagina.

Thankfully our bodies have been divinely crafted to handle this and our tissues can stretch beyond measure to give birth.

But it’s still a thought that can keep the best of us up at night.

Let’s dig into this birth phenomenon, commonly referred to as the ring of fire. If you’re planning on having a natural birth, this is for you.

**This post may contain affiliate links. I am NOT a licensed medical professional. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional. For my full disclosure policy click here.

What does crowning during birth look like?

Like this. This wonderful shot was captured birth photographer and doula, Eva Rose.

You can see baby’s head emerging and the mother’s vagina tissues stretching.

It looks mom may have a bit more to go until her tissues are fully stretched out but she’s getting there.

This is basically what it looks like when you are crowning during birth!

For more beautiful pictures of childbirth you can check out her profile here.

What exactly does it mean to crown? Why the “ring of fire”?

As we can see from the beautiful image above, crowning during birth occurs when your baby’s head is basically locked into position at the opening of the vagina.

Why would I describe it it as being locked into position? Well during the child-birthing process, your contractions, will push baby lower into your birth canal.

Your baby’s head may peep through your vaginal opening and slip back in.

Crowning, which is also known as the ring of fire, occurs when the head locks into position, and doesn’t slip back in.

The vaginal opening will take on an almond-like shape as pressure from the baby’s head cause the vaginal tissues to stretch.

This stretching causes a momentary burning or tingling sensation.

It’s an important process because it’ll save your vagina from tearing.

Keep in mind that very minor tearing is actually quite common during birth, but not to worry.

These tears don’t usually require any kind of stitching, and chance are you may not even notice them at all because the’re more like little cuts than anything else.

But the ring of fire helps prevent more serious trauma.

3 Reasons why you should embrace the ring of fire

  • Means you’re about to meet your baby
  • Allows you your vaginal tissues to stretch so you don’t tear
  • It only lasts a few moments. Maybe a minute or 2!

Can I avoid it altogether?

No. Every woman who has a drug-free vaginal birth, will experience the ring of fire. It’s a completely natural part of childbirth which precedes baby’s entrance into the world!

I love love love scrolling through the feed of birth account on Instagram that feature a variety of births.

This powerful image from homesweethomebirth on Instagram …displays a life emerging from the birthing woman after the ring of fire.

In case you’re looking for some reassurance, here it is: as someone who has had 2 natural births, I can assure you that I absolutely do not remember crowning during birth as being bad at all.

It lasted maybe a couple of seconds, not more than a minute or 2 and then my babies just slipped right out.

I understand that the way crowning looks like and the way the ring of fire is described often time, can make it seem like it’s just terrible but it’s not. So I would not worry about this at all.

It’s absolutely not worth stressing yourself out over.

Remember I told you, it only lasts a few minutes. Before you know it, you’ll be cradling your baby in your arms!

Is there a way to lessen the burn?

You can try perineal massages during pregnancy to increase muscle elasticity.

There are some studies like this one and this one which indicate that there is a benefit to this, however it is mostly in first time moms.

This would just help minimize the risk of perineal trauma by making your tissues more elastic.

With your tissues being softer, you may not experience as much burn as you would without doing the perineal massages.

For a full breakdown on how to do a perineal massage and what types of oils to use, click here.

You can also have a water birth in which the water adds some slip and helps keep the tissues soft.

It may not completely get rid of the burn but can help minimize its sensation.

I’m just coming up with suggestions because I know many moms who plan on having natural vaginal births often get really anxious and start to think about how painful it will all be, but I promise you that the ring of fire is not worth losing sleep over.

You probably won’t even remember it, it goes away that fast.

The #1 thing you shouldn’t do while you’re crowning during birth

It may seem like the best thing to do to get the burning sensation done and over with as you are crowning during birth, is to push your way through it.

But if your tissues aren’t stretched thin enough to facilitate your baby’s entrance into the world, you will probably end up tearing your vagina.

It’s kind of like hitting a rumble strip on the highway. No one in their right mind who cares about their car speeds through those. Their meant to have you slow down your driving.

Same goes for that burn.

During my most recent birth I remember actually not wanting to push once I started crowing during birth.

I just knew somehow that if I pushed through that I would tear.

It was at that point that my midwife told me to ease up on the pushing and to breathe through the burn.

The burning sensation was quite intense until my vaginal tissues were stretched so thin that my nerves were super compressed and I just couldn’t feel the burn anymore.

See how beautifully that works?

Doesn’t really sound all that beautiful but then again there are only so many ways to make the words vagina burn stretch thin compressed sound pretty.

But that’s not the point. The point is that there’s a purpose for the burn. And it doesn’t last long at all. Embrace it! 🙂

It’s all part of God’s divine design for childbirth.

The #1 thing you should do while you’re crowning

I would definitely say stop pushing and just breathe. You don’t want to tear your vagina.

And you don’t have to be quiet if you don’t want to— you can make noises, vocalize your way through it if that’s what you want, you can adopt a faster and shallower breathing pattern because those are all powerful ways to cope with pain naturally as you crown during birth.

You definitely want to relax and breathe. Don’t tense your body up because that just makes the pain seems a lot worse than it really is.

For me, breathing deeply and focusing on what was taking place within my body was key.

Whatever feels natural and good to you is what you should do.

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This is what every pregnant mom should know about the crowning during birth which is also known as the ring of fire. These childbirth tips are essential for any mom planning to have a natural vaginal birth! #fitmombirthgeek #childbirth #laboranddelivery #thirdtrimester #newmom #baby #naturalbirth #pregnancy #birthplan

5 Comments

  • Danielle
    August 25, 2020 at 11:13 pm

    These are really good things to share so that others know what to expect!

    Reply
  • Sara | SAHMable.com
    August 19, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    I had the absolute worst pains during the first 12 hours of induction (I was a month early due to preeclampsia). The next day I decided to get the epidural to get some sleep and ended up with a balloon to help it along so I didn’t sleep for 3 days – and then I had the best sleep ever with my bundle of joy 🙂 But the moral was that I literally didn’t feel a single thing! I was dead asleep – SNORING – in between pushing! This was great insight for the next time possibly or even just what others feel!

    Reply
  • Janeane M Davis
    August 19, 2020 at 8:19 am

    It is good to talk about childbirth and all aspects of it. It is better to know what you have to deal with and to prepare for it mentally rather tha being surprised at the oment.

    Reply
  • Grace
    August 19, 2020 at 4:27 am

    This is a very detailed and well researched blog post. As some one who has had 4 vaginal births with no pain killers, I honestly can’t remember the Ring of Fire feeling. I guess it’s true that the burning sensation doesn’t last long. I also agree, the best technique when it comes to natural birth, is to stop pushing and just breathe.

    Reply
  • Jessica | Mama Expedition
    August 18, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    I love that you don’t remember the pain either! I have spoke to other moms who have not experienced any burning sensations either. It’s great to inform everyone that breathing through it really works and it’s so short of a time. Remembering that you will meet your little loved one soon is a great tip to get through the burning sensation if you have it!

    Reply

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