Transition is the last phase of the first stage of labour. This is usually the shortest and the most intense part of labour.TransitionWhat’s happening?

  • The baby descends farther into the pelvis, with the top of the baby’s head becoming even with the ischial spines
  • The baby’s descent puts pressure on your rectal area
  • The cervix completes dilating
  • Every contraction makes a difference
  • Four to five contractions come in ten minutes, with each contraction lasting 70-90 seconds
  • The bags of water often break during or at the end of this phase
  • Your body is working very efficiently and with tremendous effort during each contraction
  • The contractions reach their maximum intensity at the beginning of this phase

Physically, you may feel some or all of these:

  • Rectal pressure, like needing to have a bowel movement
  • Nauseated
  • A need to throw up
  • A need to hiccup or burp
  • Hot and sweaty
  • A slight increase in vaginal bleeding
  • Shaky legs
  • A “catch” in your breathing or feel a “catch” in your throat
  • A need to give little pushes

Emotionally, you may feel some or all of these:

  • Totally focused during each contraction
  • A need for help to stay focused during contractions
  • Very quiet and inward
  • Overwhelmed and need to cry and shout
  • A need to have your support person very close to you during contractions
  • A need for privacy
  • Relieved to know this is the last phase of the first stage of labour

What to do to help yourself

  • Remember this is the shortest part of labour
  • Have continuous support from your partner
  • Completely concentrate with each contraction
  • Continue to take the contractions one at a time
  • Use slow, deep breathing
  • Breathe with your partner to keep a rhythm
  • Focus on your ritual, including vocalizating, for each contraction
  • Use light breathing at the peak of a contraction if needed
  • Move your hips or your body during the contraction, such as swaying your hips, rocking, bouncing on the exercise ball
  • Concentrate on a focal point during a contraction
  • Imagine the cervix stretching the last bit over your baby’s head
  • Change positions (with help from your partner)
  • Relax in the bath or shower
  • Relax between contractions
  • Drink, especially water
  • Empty your bladder every 1-2 hours
  • Have cold packs placed on your back
  • Have cool cloths placed on your forehead and/or neck
  • Continue to your use your TENS
  • Listen to music

How the labour partner can help

  • Be very close to her during contractions
  • Help her continue her ritual
  • Encourage her to vocalize
  • Get something for her to drink
  • Help her to change position
  • Remind her to sway her hips during contractions if at all possible
  • Help her to relax with firm massage (back, hands, feet, head, shoulders)
  • Change the lighting to help her feel more privacy
  • Remind her to go to the bathroom every 1-2 hours
  • Pour a bath for her and help her in and out
  • Put cold compresses on her lower back, neck and face
  • Remind her how close she is to the end
  • Breathe with her
  • Massage the tops of her legs if they are shaking

Prepared by: Childbirth Education Curriculum Project Ad Hoc Committee
Approved by: BC Women’s Family Education Advisory Committe