Newborn Transition


  • Barbara W. Graves CNM, MN, MPH,,

    Corresponding author
    • Address correspondence to Barbara W. Graves, CNM, MN, MPH, Midwifery Education Program, Baystate Medical Center, 689 Chestnut St., Springfield, MA 01199. E-mail:

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Mary Mumford Haley CNM, RNP


The transition from intrauterine to extrauterine life is a complex adaptation. Although, in a sense, the entire time in utero is in preparation for this transition, there are many specific anatomic and physiologic changes that take place in the weeks and days leading up to labor that facilitate a healthy transition. Some, including increasing pulmonary vasculature and blood flow, are part of an ongoing process of maturation. Others, such as a reversal in the lung from secreting fluid to absorbing fluid and the secretion of pulmonary surfactant, are associated with the hormonal milieu that occurs when spontaneous labor is impending. Interventions such as elective cesarean birth or induction of labor may interfere with this preparation for birth. Postnatal interventions such as immediate clamping of the umbilical cord and oropharyngeal suction may also compromise the normal process of newborn transition. This article reviews the physiology of the fetal to newborn transition and explores interventions that may facilitate or hinder the optimal process.