woman in labour during transition


This is a common phrase uttered or shouted out loud at the transition part of labour. So what is going on and do we all react that way at this point in the birthing journey?
In labour, somewhere between when your cervix moving up and almost fully over your babies head (or opening) and before the urge to bare down (push) has started you have a huge surge in adrenalin and the muscles of the uterus change over jobs!

You see the muscles in the uterus work in pairs much like other muscles in the body however we don’t have conscious control of the uterus muscles. So the long vertical muscles contract during the first stage of labour as round horizontal muscles relax- which causes the cervix to draw up and go over our babies head (or bottom). But as you reach the baring down stage, these muscles swap over and the round muscles squeeze your baby out to be born! This period of ‘swapping over’ is called transition. So, internally, there’s hormone changes and muscle changes.. but how does it effect us externally/emotionally?


It might be that after hours of labouring and riding on the oxytocin and endorphin high that just before the start of the second stage it might all slow down and stop completely this could be the result of the surge of adrenaline. This is often thought of as a phase of ‘rest and be thankful’ or the calm before the storm, during this time your body is building up its energy to get ready to birth your baby. So if you need rest don’t fight it, relax, release and let go, breathe deeply, cuddle, turn off the lights and let that oxytocin increase again. (see first image below)

On the other hand you may well feel and experience the surge of adrenaline become consciously aware, now feel the intensity of your labour and respond by feeling anxious or panic. So often this could be the moment that you are now asking for all the drugs and have decided that actually you just have had enough and don’t want to do this anymore!! This is when you might feel more comfortable closer to the floor and find that you are starting to vocalise and perhaps make full on guttural, primal sounds! This is the moment where people experienced in supporting birth (midwives, doulas) catch each other’s eye and smile.. they know.. baby will be here soon!

So what can your partners do to help you in transition?
– Give verbal reassurance “you are doing it”, “baby’s coming!”, “you’re so strong”, “I love you”
– Give eye contact to the birthing parent
– Remind you to relax your jaw and vocalise if you need to
– Offer cold or warm wash cloths on their forehead/back of the neck
– Encourage the birthing parent to imagine meeting baby
– Have baby’s clothes visible
– Give firmer, more grounding touch (where you might have previously been using gentle stroking techniques)

What was your experience of transition?

Image credits: Claire Saye Birth Photography Kayla Grey