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Labor Transition: What It Is & How to Prepare For It

Transition is the final and most intense part of the first stage labor, marking the transition (hence the name) from active labor to the pushing stage.

Transition is the final and most intense part of the first stage labor, marking the transition (hence the name) from active labor to the pushing stage. It’s a critical phase of labor but it also means that baby’s arrival is imminent. Yay!

Many mamas prepare for labor by learning as much as they can about each stage of labor — and how to mentally and physically prepare for it — so it’s important to know what to expect during transition, how to manage it, and what comes after it.

Read on as we answer all of your questions about transition in labor.

What are the signs of transition in labor?

The signs of transition vary from mama to mama, but there are some common indicators to look out for. One of the most noticeable signs of transition is the intensity and frequency of contractions.

During this stage, contractions become much stronger, longer, and closer together, with some women experiencing them every two to three minutes. Additionally, your body produces adrenaline to help power you through this stage, so you may feel sweaty, start to feel an urge to push, feel nauseous, and even vomit. Some mamas shake visibly. These are all normal reactions to an increase in adrenaline.

What to do during transition?

The intensity of transition can be overwhelming, but there are various ways to cope with it. One of the most important things you can do is to focus on remaining calm, centered, and grounded. One way to do this is to practice breathing exercises to help you relax and manage the pain. Studies show that deep breathing doesn’t just calm you down: it also helps alleviate acute pain!

Transition is also a good time to focus on your positive birth affirmations. Additionally, having a supportive partner, birth team, and/or doula can help to provide comfort and encouragement. Other comfort measures such as taking a warm shower, using a birthing ball, or changing positions can also help to alleviate discomfort.

How long does it last?

Although transition is intense, there is good news: transition is the shortest stage of labor. It lasts an average of 30 minutes to two hours. However, the duration can vary from woman to woman, and some may experience a much shorter or longer transition period. Remember, your journey to motherhood is unique!

Where does transition fit into the stages of labor?

<<an infographic might be helpful here >>

Labor is divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1: The longest stage that includes early labor, active labor, and transition
  • Stage 2: Pushing and birth of your baby
  • Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta

Transition falls into the first stage of labor, and it’s the final stage of labor before moving into the pushing stage.

What do transition contractions feel like?

Transition contractions are the most intense contractions you will experience during labor. They are stronger, longer, and closer together, often lasting between 60 and 90 seconds. During this stage, some women may experience back pain and cramping, and the contractions may feel like they are coming one after the other, with little or no break in between.

Guided imagery and visualization are particularly helpful here. Many mamas visualize how each contraction widens their cervix and brings them closer and closer to meeting their little one.

How dilated are you during transition?

During transition, the cervix dilates from around eight centimeters to the full 10 centimeters. That’s about the width of a bagel! This also means that your baby’s head has moved through the cervix and into the birth canal, and delivery is oh-so-close.

What comes after transition?

After transition, the pushing stage begins, where you will actively push to deliver the baby. After the intensity of transition, many mamas say that pushing feels good. This stage can last from a few minutes to several hours, depending on each mama’s unique progress and her baby’s position. Once your baby is delivered, the placenta will be delivered shortly after, marking the official end of labor. Congrats!

The takeaways

Transition is a challenging, but it marks the imminent arrival of your baby. Knowing what to expect during this stage, such as the signs, how to manage it, and what comes after it, can help you prepare mentally and physically for the birth. Remember to stay focused, stay calm, and trust in your body’s ability to deliver your baby.

What are your go-to practices for making it through transition? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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