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You’ve probably heard some moms talk about how uncomfortable the ring of fire during birth is, but what exactly is it?
I’ll be honest, I had NEVER heard of this term throughout my entire pregnancy up until I took my birth class.
Instantly, of course, all I could think about was the famous Johnny Cash — Ring of Fire song.
I’m sitting there thinking “well, the song is pretty mellow, this shouldn’t be too bad“.
I know I know, they literally have nothing to do with one another, but can you blame an almost ready to pop pregnant mama for her wishful thinking?
Regardless, I learned about this term during the birth class I took from home and I won’t lie…I was a little mortified.
If there is ONE reason I had always said scared me about having kids, was the actual act of giving birth. So to hear the words ring and fire about my down there did not sit well for me.
Luckily for you, I’m going to share EXACTLY what the ring of fire during birth is AND help you feel much more at ease with this new concept!
What is the “Ring of Fire” during birth?
The ring of fire during birth is a sensation created while your baby is crowning.
This happens because your vaginal tissue stretches and stretches to make room for your baby to exit. Once that tissue reaches it’s capacity to stretch any more, the sensation begins.
The good news? There’s no actual fire involved.
The bad news? It feels like there is.
Because your tissue is stretching so much, it feels like it’s on fire and burning all around the entire O-shaped opening of your vagina.
Before you panic, don’t worry just yet. There are some ways you can minimize this pain, but you’ll have to stick with me through the rest of this post.
How bad is the ring of fire during birth?
On a scale of 1 being the least and 10 being the most, I’d probably give it a 6-7.
It isn’t that it’s extremely painful, more so that it’s just extremely uncomfortable.
Now, the tricky part here is when you feel the ring of fire as your baby is crowning (which is a good sign by the way because you’re literally at the ‘home stretch’ — pun intended), but then it gets worst when you feel yourself actually tear.
The tearing (at least in my opinion) is so incredibly painful.
However, this all typically happens in such a fast time span that your baby is in your arms before you know it and all the pain is irrelevant because you’re on cloud nine holding that precious little babe.
How long does the ring of fire last?
The ring of fire can technically last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.
If you’re a first-time mom, expect it to be on the longer side only because labor, in general, takes longer as a first-time mom (however, there are always exceptions).
I remember with my first baby it felt like it lasted forever. It was probably an hour that I experienced the discomfort, however, when my doctor did her episiotomy I felt that and it HURT so much the ring of fire felt like nothing to me.
With my second birth, between the time I even began pushing to the time he was out, it was only 10 minutes long, but I’ll share more about this below.
Will getting an epidural numb the ring of fire during childbirth?
Getting an epidural CAN help reduce or totally eliminate the pain and discomfort of the ring of fire during birth.
I opted for epidurals for both of my deliveries because I don’t tent to handle pain very well.
The bad news for me was that with my first, they could not get the placement right. I was poked 3 times, and the 3rd time still did not help me one single bit with my contractions or my pain.
I remember the anesthesiologist asking me to move my legs and I was swinging those suckers around. 100% sensation still present.
It was no surprise to me that when my son started to crown, the discomfort of the ring of fire kicked in fast. He also got stuck which led to me needing an episiotomy to ensure I didn’t end up being rushed into an emergency cesarean.
With my 2nd birth, I opted for the epidural again, except this time I was poked NINE times.
Yes, NINE times I had a giant catheter stabbed between my vertebrae trying to ensure proper placement. Thankfully the 9th stick did the trick, but I was in full anticipation I’d be laboring without any meds again.
Since I hadn’t experienced the magic of a working epidural before, let me just say, it was wondrous!
I was able to take a nap for almost 2 hours as my contractions intensified and before you know it I felt the “Oh he’s ready down there” pressure start.
The medical team got their supplies set up and I pushed a few times, then I started to feel a little bit of the ring of fire start to kick in, but it wasn’t as bad as the first.
Then, I hear my husband shouting “wow, he’s already here”, and I look up to see him grabbing our son, I took a big breath of relief, and felt SO grateful for having a working epidural.
Can the ring of fire during childbirth be prevented?
You can never 100% guarantee that the ring of fire can be prevented, but there are some things you can do before going into labor to help minimize your chances of experiencing this uncomfortable sensation!
- Ask your Nurse, OB, or Midwife for a Perineal Massage
Believe it or not, your body was made to birth a baby. However, sometimes we need a little extra help to prime our bodies for the big day of labor!
One of those ways is to start practicing giving yourself a perineal massage!
In fact, this is one of many techniques used in postpartum pelvic floor therapies whenever mom’s experience a lot of built-up scar tissue or pain around the opening of their vagina (around the perineum).
The main goal when performing a perineal massage is to gently stretch the tissue around the opening of your vagina. Think about how you would warm-up for a race. You’d probably stretch your leg muscles, maybe do a quick jog to really warm up your body, muscles, and tissues. Well, the same thing applies here.
The American Pregnancy Association has a wonderful photo-guided instructional to help you understand how to perform this massage.
You can also check out the video below by Helping Hand Doula.
- Know how to get baby in the right position for birth
Making sure your baby is in the proper position for birth is another great way to make sure you won’t have any prolonged pushing that will prolong the burning sensation of the ring of fire.
You’ve probably heard the term “head down” and thought, as long as the baby has their head down in the birth canal, it’s the most ideal position, however that’s not all that matters.
The wonderful team over at Spinning Babies does an amazing job breaking down E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G about ideal fetal positions from birth.
They even share tips on flipping breech babies, info on having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and so much more.
If you’re currently expecting, be sure to check out their site to make sure your baby is in the most optimal position for a smooth labor & delivery.
- Try laboring in a position that helps baby come out more naturally
When it comes to birth, one of the best things you can do is make sure you’re utilizing all your resources to help get your baby out as easily as possible.
One of these ways is to let gravity work in your favor by trying different birthing positions!
If you’re having a non-medicated birth, you can get into labor positions such as:
- Squatting (against a chair, your hospital bed, in a water bath, or with partner support).
- Hands and knees.
- Kneeling (against a yoga ball, chair, partner support, in a water bath, or a wall).
- Standing with partner support.
- Sitting in a bath or on a yoga ball.
Honestly, the limit to what position you can get into is pretty open.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to trust your body & get that baby out safely.
If it means getting an epidural to relax and cope with pain, get the epidural.
If it means having 3 people to tell you how amazing you are while pushing, get those people in the room!
- Opt for the epidural
If preventing the pain is your number one concern when it comes to the ring of fire, I’d encourage you to consider getting an epidural.
There is so much mixed information out there pressuring moms to feel like one way is the best way and truthfully, YOUR way is the best way for you.
If you know for a fact you have poor pain tolerance and birth would be a hard experience for you without medication, don’t feel guilty about it, voice your needs and ask for whatever interventions you need.
Plus, when you cope throughout the pain effectively, you allow your body a chance to relax which only aids your ability to get that baby out safely.
- Practice breathing techniques to help you cope with the pain
Knowing how to breathe through labor is beneficial whether you have a medicated birth or natural birth.
Proper breathing not only helps you to relax, but it can also help you preserve your energy throughout pushing baby.
Plus, it can help you draw in the pressure to have powerful and effective pushes (which could help shorten labor and of course, the ring of fire sensation!).
Liesel Teen of Mommy Labor Nurse shares quite a few tips in her online birth course to help you perfect your breathing technique when it comes to coping with labor pain. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can apply code: to save 10% off your purchase of her online birth course!
Ring of Fire Recap
The ring of fire during birth is a sensation you feel when your perineal tissues are stretched beyond their ability while your baby is crowning.
The sensation can last 20 mins up to 2 hours, usually on the longer side for first-time moms.
Although you can’t guarantee 100% prevention, you can practice certain techniques and birth preparation tricks to minimize the pain.
Truth be told, it isn’t horribly painful, more so very uncomfortable, but it will pass and before you know it, you’ll have that sweet baby wrapped in your arms to love on.
Did you experience the ring of fire during birth? Share your tips below!
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