During pushing and delivery, your baby's head will begin to make an appearance through your vaginal opening with each contraction. When your baby's head remains visible and does not slip back in, it is known as crowning.

What you should know about crowning

When your baby's head crowns, you will experience a burning or stinging sensation, often referred to as "the ring of fire," as your baby stretches the vaginal opening. As soon as you feel this, stop pushing! This is very important because if you continue to push and bear down, you increase your risk of tearing or needing an episiotomy. If you forget, your doctor or midwife will remind you.

The burning or stinging sensation only lasts for a short time and is followed by a numb feeling. This is due to your baby's head stretching your vaginal tissue so thin that the nerves are blocked. The result is a natural anesthetic.

There is no set time frame for how long this will last.

Tips to fight that urge to push:

  • Lean back and try to go limp.
  • Make a conscious effort to relax the muscles of the perineal floor (the layers of muscles and tissue between the vagina and rectum).
  • Focus your energy into deep breathing techniques.
  • Allow your contractions to do the work for you during this time.

Reprinted with permission from American Pregnancy Association