Labor is a very unique thing for each woman. Some women have an easier time than others, but for all women the experience is often nothing like how they thought it would be. And labor is just part of what occurs. At the end of labor, right before birth, something incredibly intense happens. This is called “the ring of fire,” and it pretty much defines the culmination of what the woman has gone through in nine months of carrying her little bundle of joy.
“The Ring of Fire” can be defined by a burning sensation that some women describe during a drug-free birth when baby’s head crowns. It has basically been defined as feeling like someone pulling the edges of one’s lips apart and well, it burns. Yikes. This is not fun for sure. Still, though it is assumed that this is automatically a part of every drug-free birth out there, it is not always the case. There are also some things that women can do to make this part of labor easier or at least less memorable in a negative way, and make this whole ring of fire thing easier, too.
Remember, every woman experiences pain and discomfort in a different way. No one woman’s body is the same. This is true in every part of her life, including with childbirth and later with motherhood. She needs to know that a lot of women experience this phenomenon in a different way and are quite open about how this “ring of fire” changed the birth experience for them. Here are 13 Ways Women Have Described The Ring of Fire:
13 As Painful As Pushing
Yes, some women have found “the ring of fire” to be as painful as pushing:
“I just went through my first labor. Perhaps I did not think too much into the actual birth part, but I was under the impression that an epidural would get rid of the pain. Holy hell I was wrong! It helped with contraction pains, but once the baby started coming, I was in agony! I mean.... Screaming.... Is this normal? I was also unaware at the time of pushing the epidural button but apparently wanted to make sure that I could still feel when to push? I could definitely feel the contractions coming on ... But was in sooooooo much pain for maybe a half hour of pushing at the end. I'm pretty terrified to have another but hoping I will forget the pain soon..."
12 Like Lips Being Pulled Apart
There are lots of ways “The Ring of Fire” is described. One is the sensation of “lips being pulled apart” or “stretching.” It’s true for many women that they experience this. For some, this is totally painful. For others, it may not be a walk in the park, but it is not too bad as this Mom goes on to explain:
“That reminds me of my friend telling me the crowning sensation was like the ring of fire, lol. I had an epidural so didn't feel it with my first but 2nd labour was very fast and it was too late for pain relief, I was so scared of the crowning after what my friend had said that I wouldn't push! It was nowhere near as bad as I thought anyway, like a stretching/stinging pain.
11 It Was The Best Part
There were many women who had some pain during the ring of fire part, or at least A LOT of discomfort, but decided to make the best of it and look at the big picture, primarily that they were bringing life into the world. The pain would only be for a short time after all and then they would get to hold their beautiful little baby in their arms. Here is one such comment:
“I don't particularly remember feeling the ring of fire. I found contractions much more painful - at least the ones where I progressed from 4-9cm in an hour lol. By the time I got to pushing, I was just jacked on adrenaline that I don't remember any of it being worse than others. I delivered naturally, drug free.”
10 Not More Painful Than Labor
Many women have a positive view of this phenomenon and end up looking at it as part of the whole labor and birth experience. For them, this is also part of being a woman and bringing life into the world. What an incredible experience it is as a woman to be able to experience something like this. As this Mom-to-Be expresses: “I remember feeling the ring for a second or two... and it didn't hurt worse than the pain I was already in and had experienced to get to that point.”
This is so comforting for other Moms struggling with labor and what is coming in the very near future. It also shows a bravery and a willingness to sacrifice her own comfort for something bigger than her, her future baby.
9 Need Support To Get Through It
Then there is something called perenium support or massage. This is basically a massage that is done before or during labor to ease a woman’s pain her backside area. She could have someone do this for her or even do this on herself! It can make a huge difference in how her body handles the pain of this last stage of labor. These Moms all have a lot to say about it:
”I agree with pps that the sensation only lasted a tiny amount of time and that compresses work wonders. I didn't have a midwife, but my family dr applied the compresses as per my request. Awesome dr." A warm compress, coupled with lubrication are also great ways to help minimize or completely avoid tearing, and thus reduce the burning sensation of the "ring of fire".
8 Water Helped
“If you have a midwife or doula ask them to use hot water compresses. It totally took the ring away for me.” And another Mom said: “I had no "ring of fire" but maybe because my midwife and I applied a lot of pressure, it was a water birth, and I birthed her very slowly.” A lot of women have talked about how important a water birth was for pain reduction and for helping make the birth a memorable experience in a good way. Mom can enjoy meeting baby without tearing and discomfort that often dry births will cause. Water is soothing, comforting and a source of life both in utero and as baby is being born. More and more women and hospitals are recognizing its importance in the whole birthing scene.
7 Just Breathe
Labor aide is definitively a special oral device that claims to help women handle childbirth while avoiding vacuum assisted births or c-section births which carry their own risks. It also claims to help women get through birthing naturally. As this Teen Mom and spokeswoman, Jenenlle Evans, said on her Instagram site about giving birth to her daughter: “I’m recovering so well, and feeling great! This delivery was soooo much better than the first two. @laboraide helped me relax and made pushing seem to go so quickly.” The device is inserted in the mouth and helps get women naturally through the breathing process of labor making sure to keep her calm and help her through the labor process. Though not all women may know about it, it is another way a woman can try and cope naturally with any pain associated with labor.
6 It Was 'Tolerable'
A lot of women who opt for natural childbirth to help with the pain of “the ring of fire” have used something called “hypnobirthing.” This is basically like using visualization to cope with the pain of the labor and to move through it as smoothly as possible. For some women it has really worked. For others, not as much.:
“I tried listening to the tapes, but it didn't help me a ton. I tried to visualize all of the women who have ever delivered along with all of the midwives of the past walking across the rocks, down to the lake where my flower pedals were slowly opening, but, in reality, all I could envision was a baby's head tearing through my vagina while listening to my midwife say "It's the call of the wild, baby!" My midwife said that the women who are the most successful at it are those who take the classes.”
5 Follow The Baby's Lead
And yes, following her baby’s cues (and really her own body’s) will help a lot with tearing or pain that she may experience during the final stages of labor. Lots of stretching, lubricating the birth area, along with positive visualization can also also a lot with Mom’s perspective on labor as well as how she sees it as a means to an end where she meets her child:
“Its weird, you know its there, and yes the "ring of fire" is an accurate description for how it felt to me, but I believe in the woman's body and all its glorious ways to naturally soothe pain, especially during childbirth. It hurt, but it was a good hurt, like the other mom's described, it was the means to an end, and was a very exciting part of the delivery process. You can absolutely do this..."
4 Natural Is Best
It is also a good idea to try and not have the doctor use any birth equipment to bring junior into the world unless there is absolutely no choice at all, i.e. baby is not progressing down the birth cannal, baby is in some kind of distress and/or Mom is. If labor flows as naturally as it can, this can help things move along easier:
“If you have a willing partner, getting down there with some lubrication and fingers (sorry tmi) you can massage outwardly to help stretching in the weeks before birth. (That is a great way to prevent tearing as well!) Do you plan on birthing in a hospital? If so there are some great tips in this book: Natural Hospital Birth-The Best of Both Worlds by Cynthia Gabriel."
3 Episiotomy Makes It Worse
Some women have had more pain if they end up having other types of assistance during birth such as episiotomy or vacuum assisted birth as in this woman’s case, that was one hundred percent necessary. She did say that she didn’t plan it, but hey, sometimes life has other plans in store for us:
“I did end up having vacuum assistance (the cord was wrapped around my sons neck twice so after crowning he couldn't come out on his own) so I was given an episiotomy and even though it really hurts to have scissors cut you open it wasn't horrible. I think it's just different from person to person. I read that a lot of women found the pushing stage (even though painful) to be a relief after hours of labor and other women found it to be the most painful part.”
2 Getting Baby Into Position Helped
A lot of women have told wonderful stories about how prenatal yoga classes, stretches, sitting and walking positions as well as yoga balls, have helped get baby into the best position for labor. This has also helped baby’s birth happen quicker and more easily for all. Other women have stated that the best way to give birth is moving around, sometimes going on all fours, and NEVER lying down on one’s back. In other words, she has to have some measure of control in the process:
“Having had a bad experience and a brilliant one, my advice would be to sit on a birthing/yoga ball as soon as you feel contractions coming, and keep sitting on it. Worked wonders for my second - I turned up at the hospital fully dilated.”
1 Massaging The Area Helped
Who wouldn’t want a massage before labor and childbirth, right? Well, apparently a perineal massage done in those nether regions can help a woman cope even better with labor pain and the ring of fire. After all, this area will be having the most intense workout ever, and getting that massage WAY before labor has begun can be really soothing. Also, getting perineal massages throughout pregnancy are most effective:
“My daughter was a bit different. She came out in only 2 pushes (2 minutes) and she came so quickly there was no time to do anything about it at all. My midwife barely had time to get from my head to 'catch' her. That ring of fire was the most intense part of my labor, and I did let out what my husband calls the "hitachi war cry"... but, it only lasted a few seconds and it was over. Absolutely NO pain afterwards at all.”
Sources: TrimesterTalk.com, BabyCenter.com, BabyCenter.co.uk, NetMums.com