Crowning is the moment you baby’s head appears at your vulva without slipping back.
Throughout the second stage of labour your baby will pass through the cervix which is now fully dilated to 10 cm and is descending through the birth canal. During this stage, which on average can last between 20 minutes – 2 hours, your contractions are enabling you to move your baby down and out.
You will feel a very strong urge to push at this point and your contractions will be at their height.
Throughout the 2nd stage your baby will be slowly navigating down the birth canal with every contraction. During this stage you may feel the sensation of baby moving forward with the urge to push and then slipping backwards slightly as it subsides. Eventually when the baby reaches the opening of the vulva its head may appear for the first time but slip backwards out of sight. Crowning is the moment where the head appears almost completely at the vulva without slipping back. This often comes with a strong sensation of burning as the head (or sometimes body if baby isn’t headfirst) stretches the skin between the vagina and anus to accommodate the size of the head. Sometimes the skin can tear during this moment especially if baby’s head appears with some speed. In some cases, a small cut may be made of the perineum (the muscle and skin between the vagina and anus) to assist with the delivery of the head, this is called an episiotomy. Midwives often advise the mother to slow down her desire to push and pant gently so that the head can birth slowly, allowing the skin more time to stretch.
Within the next couple of contractions your baby’s head will be out – your midwife will feel for the umbilical cord to make sure it’s not around their neck.
Baby’s shoulders will turn so that they’re sideways on and facing your leg, then the rest of their body will usually come out quickly and easily from this point.
In some cases, baby requires assistance when passing through the birth canal and ventose or forceps might be used to delivery baby quickly and safely. Both are completely safe but may require an episiotomy and anaesthetic will be given alongside an episiotomy.
By Ellie Dearden
Hypnobirthing Instructor with Born to Birth Company