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Crowning phase

Crowning phase


Crowning contractions

Emotions during the crowning phase

As the pushing continues, the baby starts to extend their head out, and move underneath the woman's pubic bone. This stretches the perineum close to its capacity. By the time about 5 centimetres in diameter of the baby's head can be seen, the previous pattern of 'two steps forward, one step back' changes. Now the baby's head continues to advance slightly more with each contraction, but usually stays where it is after the contraction has stopped. This continues for a few contractions (or possibly only one contraction, if this is not your first baby) until the baby's head 'crowns'.

Crowning refers to when the widest part of the baby's head (or their crown) is emerging. At this point, the baby's crown, part of their forehead (nearly to their eyebrows) and the back of the baby's head can be clearly seen.

Head crowning, showing perineum Image 6-09 shows an image of the head crowning and the perineum stretching.

WARNING: This image shows a real photo of a baby's head crowning. If you would like to look at this image, Click here.(Photo of baby's head crowning Image 6-10)

As the baby's head crowns, the woman's perineum is stretched to its maximum, being nearly paper-thin. There is usually an intense burning (or stinging sensation) for a few seconds as this occurs, generally easing as the perineum numbs. The burning can trigger panic for some women, causing them to cry out, or scream.

WARNING:This image shows a real photo of a baby's head crowning, with the caregiver placing one hand on the baby's head and another holding a pad over the woman's anus. If you would like to look at this image, Click here.(Photo of caregiver controlling baby's head crowning Image 6-11)

The baby's head can remain in the crowning position for as little as a few seconds, or up to a couple of contractions. Some women will use their own hand to control their baby's head to be born. They find that it helps them to focus on easing their baby's head out slowly, allowing them to sense what is happening 'down there'.

Crowning contractions

The crowning phase contractions can:
  • Remain 4 - 7 minutes apart. Usually once the head crowns, the baby's face and entire head slowly emerge within moments.
  • Require you to 'pant', or 'blow', as the baby's head comes out (similar to blowing out a candle). This may help ease your baby's head gently past your perineum. Panting and pushing is explained in the next section of the class in support strategies for the 2nd stage of the labour.
  • Cause some women to shout or scream, in response to feelings of panic, or fear, as they feel the burning and stretching of their perineum, or as a way of releasing the urge to push.
  • Cause you to feel confused, not knowing whether to 'push' or 'pant', not wanting to pant when all you feel like doing is pushing! Your caregiver will usually give you feedback and direction, often saying things like "Pant, small push, now pant, or breathe". Listen for their direction and do your best. While your caregiver is trying to assist you in avoiding a tear, it is often hard to override the messages your body is giving you (and some women don't).

Click to get Popup WindowDid you know?

Emotions during the crowning phase

The following are some common emotions that parents have shared, as being part of their experience during the crowning phase in 2nd stage of the labour. You can read your own, (or each other's) by clicking onto the following headings.

Click to get Popup WindowEmotions the woman may experience in the crowning phase

Click to get Popup WindowEmotions the partner or support person may experience in the crowning phase


Last revised: Friday, 14 December 2012

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.

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