The ring of fire is what a lot of people feel as the final perineal tissues stretch when baby comes out. Will you feel it if you have an epidural? Most likely no, but every epidural is different. However, you may feel a lot of pressure — so let’s talk about how those are different.
But, how do I know so much about this ring of fire? Hi, I’m Hilary. Many people know me as The Pregnancy Nurse®. I’ve been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of labor and delivery experience along with 3 labor epidurals of my own. I have seen thousands of people birth their baby and have heard a lot about their experiences — so I think I’m an expert for you on this one.
Ok, so let’s first answer….
What is the ring of fire?
It’s a great name, right? It’s just what people feel as those final tissues of their vagina stretch. These tend to be the least stretchy as they involve your skin. As they stretch many people say it burns like crazy.
Many people just want to cross their legs and go home if they don’t have an epidural. BUT the only way around the ring of fire is THROUGH it as baby’s head stretches them.
Real quick — the epidural isn’t your ONLY pain management option in labor — be sure to grab my pain management options in labor:
Do you feel the ring of fire with an epidural?
Most often no. If you have a working epidural (I have a post on what to do if your epidural isn’t working that might interest you) you won’t feel it.
I do hear some people saying they DID feel it and two thoughts on that:
You may feel a lot of pressure.
The epidural doesn’t take away pressure (I do have a post on what you feel with the epidural). Even in the OR when we deliver a baby via C-section people will feel people pushing on their abdomen to deliver the baby. It just doesn’t take away that “pain”
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You may have some bits of the ring of fire.
I have had so many patients say they felt it, but as someone who’s seen a lot of “natural” labor and a lot of epidurals most often they feel that pressure, and maybe some mild stretching, but it’s not the same.
There is honestly a special scream that a lot of women get in those final pushes if they don’t have an epidural — and I feel the ring of fire for them. Go ahead and scream, you’re just about there!
The good news is that once baby is out that ring of fire is immediately gone and you feel AMAZING. You just have to go through it…. much like a lot of life.
Does the ring of fire mean you’re tearing?
Not always. Most women feel it, first baby or 4th who don’t have an epidural on board. Some tear, some don’t. Remember I have some tips on how to not tear and also how to take care of your bottom after baby that you’ll find helpful.
Grab my postpartum checklist to make taking care of your bottom easy:
The thing is, if you know the ring of fire is coming it’s expected, and you know to push through it. The problem comes when people don’t know it’s coming and think something has gone wrong. Don’t be one of those people — now you know you HAVE to push through it.
Honestly, a lot of labor is going to be just like that. If you know what’s coming you’re going to feel SO much better. This is the easy way to get prepared. Even if you’re thinking, “Hilary — I’m too late for a class” — I really think you can fit it in and feel SO much more prepared! It honestly only takes a few hours!
Or, if you’re not quite ready for the full class, check out my free prenatal class — It’s your first step towards being your own birth boss.