As the body adjusts to accommodate the last few centimeters of dilation, just before you begin pushing, the hormone levels are so high that you will see undeniable physical signs. Observation of these signs alert you to the fact that you are in transition.
Not all women have a transition, in fact 1/3 of women don't seem to have a specific time of transition. Another 1/3 of women claim that transition was not any more difficult than the rest of labor, and 1/3 claim it was the worst part of labor.
Transition is the time that your body is completing dilation and preparing to push your baby out. It is generally very intense with contractions right on top of each other. During transition, contractions will be long and close. They may be 90 seconds long and two minutes apart, which gives you a 30 second rest time between contractions. But it is also the shortest part of labor, generally lasting 15 minutes to half an hour.
You will recognize transition by the desire to give up. This is when women claim they just can't do it anymore. Most women begin to doubt their ability to go on, and may seem to forget that they are in labor to give birth to a baby. It is in this part of labor that most women ask for medication. This is unfortunate since the shortness of this stage of labor may cause the mother to be pushing before she has received any medical pain relief. When physical signs indicate transition, you may prefere to hold out, handling the contractions as best as possible.
Transition is also recognizable by various physical signs, which may or may not be present at your labor. Some women get hot and cold flashes, cold sweats, nausea or vomiting, shivering or shaking, hiccups, burping and a general inability to feel comfortable in any position. This is the most common time for the bag of waters to break naturally. When you begin to show these signs, it does not matter if you are dilated to 1 or 10 centimeters, it means you are very close to pushing your baby out.
Another physical sign is the inability to relax or be comfortable. A woman who was handling labor well may suddenly find that she has no idea what to do and nothing is comfortable any more. At this point, it is the job of the labor partner to assist her into various positions in an attempt to find the one that will keep her most comfortable.
Transition is often the time when the mother needs the most emotionally support as well. Some women need constant reassurance that they are ok and the baby is fine. This may be due to the overall "giving up" and feeling that she is out of control. Most women will respond well to positive encouragements and some require nothing more than giving them the physical and emotional space to labor.
The "giving up" or feeling out of control may be recognized by comments the mother makes. It is not uncommon for a mother to say, "I can't do this," or "I need something." Recognize that this is not the mother asking for medication, but for help. She can no longer handle the labor the way she has been, and she needs to do something different.