What is the Transition Stage in labour? | Living and LovingLiving and Loving

What is the Transition Stage in labour?

What is the transition stage in labour and how do you know you are entering it? Registered midwife Pippa Hime explains.


Labour has three main stages. In simple terms they are: the getting to pushing part, the pushing part, and the recovering from pushing part. So what exactly is this transition stage that we hear about, and how does it fit into the picture? Let’s have a look.

 As the uterus contracts, the cervix, or mouth of the womb, dilates or opens to 10cm. This happens during the first stage of labour. Once fully dilated you enter the second stage – the big push. The transitional stage is the time when a woman goes from being near to fully dilated and pushing. Intense contractions move the baby down the birth canal ready for delivery. This stage is the shortest and most intense part of your labour.

So how do you know you are entering the transition stage?

Your contractions become intense. They are almost one after the other and last for a good 60 to 90 seconds. This makes this stage of labour the most uncomfortable. There is a big increase in pressure felt deep into the bottom as the babies head descends onto the perineum. You will begin to feel an undeniable urge to push or bear down. Don’t shy away from this sensation, it is normal during this stage to feel like you are having a bowel movement.

Signs that you are entering the transition stage

Physically there are a number of marked signs that you are entering this stage.

  • There is a massive surge of adrenaline rushing through your body preparing you for the arrival of your little one. This means you may feel nauseous and even vomit.
  • You may shake uncontrollably and possibly have cold sweats.
  • Your mouth may feel dry.
  • As you enter this stage you may become fearful, anxious or even despondent. Good birthing support is crucial to get the mother through this stage.
  • You may feel as though you can’t go on, the baby is stuck or you don’t have the ability to birth.
  • Your senses are heightened making some sounds, smells or even touch, irritate you.
  • You may become very focused and withdrawn.

How to cope during the transition stage

As you progress through this stage try to stay calm and focused on the birth of your child. Apply deep breathing and good relaxation to get you through. You are so close to the finish line – it is almost time for the final push!

Click here to read more on what to expect during the different stages of labour.

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