You’ve gotten through early labor and active labor and now things are getting pretty intense. If you haven’t gotten an epidural by now, this is probably the time when you may really start wanting one. But if you are wanting to have a natural birth, I know that you can do it. You can get through transition! To help you through this phase and get you to pushing, I’ve listed 6 tips below along with some partner tips. But first, let’s answer some common questions…
What Is Transition?
Transition is the last phase and the most difficult phase of labor. Luckily, it is also the shortest phase of labor. In this phase, your cervix will dilate from 7 centimeters to 10 centimeters (complete) and it will be 100% effaced. Your contractions will be about 2-3 minutes apart, each contraction will be lasting 60-90 seconds long, and they will be very strong in intensity. Because of the speed and intensity, this is when your focus might falter. Your contractions may even come back-to-back, one right after the other. With this intensity, you may begin to doubt your ability to birth your baby naturally and start requesting medications. This is all normal, but you can do it! It’s also normal to start worrying about how long your labor will last and how much more intense things will get. Since we don’t know how long labor will be, this can be discouraging for women. This is why birth partners must be by your side providing you physical and emotional support. He/she should be your voice of reason when you’re doubting yourself as well as when the medical staff start offering medication. (Partners, if you are not feeling confident in being this main supporting role, you should look into hiring a doula.)
How Long Does Transition Last?
As I mentioned earlier, transition is the shortest phase in labor and it generally lasts about ½ hour to at most 3 hours long. You are so close, mama. You can do it! Now that you know what to expect from transition, here are some tips to help you get through it and be able to start pushing!
6 Tips on What to Do During Transition 1
1. Get in the Water!
Water is nature’s epidural. I can’t tell you how many times my clients have refused to get out of the water during labor and I have to remind them that since they have chosen a hospital birth that they have to get out of the tub. Birth center births and home births do not have this issue since their care providers are midwives, but unfortunately the majority of doctors in hospitals will not allow you to have a water birth because they do not have this type of training on how to catch a baby in the water.
Although, if you are having your baby in a hospital, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be in the water during transition; it just means that you can’t be in the water while pushing. Being fully submerged in the water (especially during transition) is one of the most (if not the most) relaxing places to be during labor. Getting in the water will help you relax your muscles which will enable your body to open up and push your baby further down into your pelvis to get ready for pushing. Get. In. The. Water. You won’t regret it.
2. Focus on Your Breathing
You probably have been focusing on your breathing all along which is good, but during transition, it requires your full attention. It may sound like a simple task that you just have to focus on breathing in and out, but it truly takes enormous effort and commitment to keep your attention on it when things get tough. Most women that I am with during their labor appreciate when I remind them to slow down their breathing, relax their jaw and take in a big inhale and let out a long exhale. The less tense you are, the better! And good paced breathing can help with that.
3. Make Sounds During Contractions
Some women may feel that they need to be quite during labor or else they are making a scene. Please scrap that from your mind because honestly, making sounds during your contractions is normal and it’s actually helpful. These sounds that you make should always be low moaning sounds during labor. Those low sounds help relax your mouth and throat, which actually helps relax your cervix and vagina. (If you think about it, when you orgasm, your mouth is open and you are breathing deeply. We need you to do the same thing during labor to help open everything up to give birth to your baby. Like I tell my laboring mamas, open mouth = open vagina.)
4. Change Positions
It can be incredibly exhausting to move during this phase, but the more you move to help open your pelvis, the faster this phase will go. Hands and knees is a very popular position to do during transition since it removes the pressure from your back and allows your support person to massage you, put a warm compress on your lower back, or do counter-pressure to relieve that pressure and pain.
5. Let Go
Women who have the quickest labors are the ones that fully let go and follow their bodies lead. They realize that everything in labor is beyond their control and they have to relax and surrender to all the sensations. Your job is to accept and work with the urges that are bringing your baby to you.
In transition, a new sensation that you will feel is rectal pressure. Some women tense and clench their bottom with this intense sensation, but your body needs to relax with it and allow things to open. The more you do that the sooner the pressure will be constant and you will be ready to push.
6. Ask For Help
Most women say that they couldn’t have got through labor without their partner. They often say their partner kept them focused and gave them a sense of security. So even if you don’t know what you want, still ask for help. You are letting your partner and support people know that they need to do more to help.