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Labor Transition is considered by many to be the most intense part of labor but luckily the shortest! I will discuss transition signs of labor, symptoms, as well as tips to help you deal with those difficult contractions and hopefully speed things up when possible!

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As a general overview childbirth is broken up into three stages of labor:

Stage 1 starts from the onset of labor all the way until the cervix has completely dilated to the full 10 cm needed for vaginal delivery. This stage includes:

  • Early Labor: The time labor starts until the cervix has dilated to 3 cm. This is usually the longest part of labor, usually 8-12 hours. Contractions may be irregular and tend to be mild. Contractions last between 30-45 seconds and are 5-20 minutes apart.
  • Active Labor: Dilation goes from 3cm- 7cm. Contractions are fairly regular and are 3-5 minutes apart and 60-75 seconds long.
  • Transition: dilation from 7cm-10cm. Contractions are very regular, 2.5-3 minutes apart and 60-90 seconds long.

Stage 2 begins after full 10 cm dilation until the baby has been delivered.

Stage 3 of labor is the shortest and is the process of delivering the placenta.

Now that we have the basics of the stages of labor broken down we will focus on transition labor.

Labor Transition Physical Signs

  • Contractions lasting between 60-90 seconds with very intense peaks
  • Some contractions may have multiple peaks
  • Contractions are about 2-3 minutes apart
  • Dilation is between 8-10 cm.
  • Feeling pressure in your back
  • Nausea/vomiting

How You Might be Feeling

  • At this point, you are likely to feel that you are unable to get comfortable
  • You might be crying
  • Feelings of discouragement
  • Even if you wanted a drug free birth you might start asking/demanding pain medication
  • You will begin to feel a strong desire to push
  • Regardless of the length of your labor, you are likely to be feeling exhausted at this point (rest assured you are almost there!)

Coping Strategies For Labor Transition!

  • Breathing techniques continue to be key!
  • Rely on your support person now, more than ever!
  • Remember your baby is almost here! You are nearing the finish line!
  • Labor positions:
    • tub/shower– relaxes the body and allows rest, however, might slow or stall labor.
    • squatting–Can help open the pelvis and gives baby room to maneuver.
    • sitting leaning forward on the birth ball– relieves back pain and is an excellent position for the support person to give back rubs. Good position for resting and does allow some gravity advantages.
    • walking/swaying–uses gravity. can make contractions less painful and more productive. Baby will be well aligned and may speed up labor. This position also relieves back pain.
    • getting on your hands and knees– Excellent position for back pain. This position allows for vaginal exams if necessary. Also takes pressure off of hemorrhoids.
    • sitting on the toilet
    • standing–which uses gravity. Can make contractions less painful and more productive. Baby will be well aligned and might speed up labor. Leaning forward while standing can also relieve back pain. Continue changing positions! This will be the hardest time to change positions but it is extremely important to move labor along!

What your Partner can do to Support You During Labor Transition

As labor progresses, your support person becomes more and more important. At this point, your partner should expect to stay close to you for the duration of labor. You are going to need the emotional support during this time. It is common for the support person to begin to feel very unsure of themselves during this time as they see you in pain. It is helpful to take a birth class together so that they can learn some coping and support strategies before the big day. Some of these strategies include:

  • words of affirmation and encouragement
  • massage
  • counter pressure
  • suggest different positions and help you move into those positions
  • offering sips of water at the end of each contraction to promote hydration
  • shower you with LOTS of affection and attention
  • Being your voice and advocate when needed

Remember Mamas, labor transition is extremely hard work! But at this point, you will be nearing the finish line! Continue to stay focused on the fact that you will be meeting your sweet baby soon!