Stages of Labor: 3rd Stage Transition


Transition is a term used to describe the last phase of labor. This is where the labor pains become more closely spaced, and last longer. You can expect contractions to last 60 to 90 seconds spaced 2 to 3 minutes apart with some variation. This phase is the shortest phase of labor lasting 30 to 90 minutes on average. Take each contraction one at a time. Don’t think about past contractions or how many contractions it will take to get to the pushing stage. Just focus on the contraction at hand.
You may begin to feel strong pressure in your lower back or perineum. Your legs may shake or cramp and feel cold. You can have your coach massage your legs to help ease the pain. Nausea and vomiting can sometimes occur along with drowsiness and rectal pressure. You can try to change positions to help alleviate the pain. Some women may feel tightness in the throat or chest. You may feel the urge to push. Do not begin to push until you get the go ahead from your caregiver or nurse. Try panting or blowing instead and try to relax between contractions. If you begin pushing before your body is ready, you will be pressing the baby’s head against a cervix that is not fully dilated.

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The hardest work of labor occurs during this time. Your cervix will dilate from about 7 cm to a full 10 cm. It will require a great deal of mental control to get through it – particularly if you are doing it naturally. Fortunately for most women, transitional labor does not last all that long. However, because of the intensity of the contractions and the short amount of space between contractions for you to rest (physically and mentally) this portion of labor can seem interminable. A supportive spouse, friend or parent can make a big difference here. Active breathing techniques can help get you through and take the edge off the contractions. Medications can also be helpful – just be careful in this regard – and read the section on natural labor vs. medicated labor.

You may find yourself slipping out of control or feel that you are definitely not in control – that your body is controlling you. You will either love or hate your coach. You may have very intense emotions and cry. This is particularly true during transition – where your personality may completely change (it is a temporary thing, I assure you). In fact this is true. Your body does take control. You have to keep reminding yourself that your body knows exactly what to do and when to do it and so does the baby. Your body is pre-programmed to get you through this beautiful but difficult process. The other thing to keep in mind is that childbirth is a completely natural process that requires active intervention in rare circumstances. Most modern day childbirth problems can be traced directly to medical intervention techniques and activities. Of course, your baby is precious and you do not want to leave anything to chance. However, if you have competent attendants (physicians, nurses, or midwives), standing by you should be able to deal with any emergencies that may arise – and it should be stressed that true emergencies are quite rare.

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