If you reach your estimated due date, you may be offered a membrane sweep.
Ask questions to make sure that you feel comfortable with it. You should know what the risks and alternatives are.
A common reason for induction of labour is that the baby may be ‘overdue’. There may be other reasons why induction of labour is being recommended.
Membrane sweeps, sometimes known as a stretch and sweep, are offered in many areas routinely. They are always performed with your consent and are completely voluntary. It is performed by the midwife or doctor inserting one or two fingers inside the cervix and making a ‘sweeping’ circular motion to separate the membrane sac surrounding your baby from the cervix. It may also be known as ‘stripping’ the membranes.
It should always be discussed in depth with you. You should feel fully informed and have the opportunity to ask questions. There are pros and cons with everything. It may not be suitable in all pregnancies e.g, if baby is breech. If a membrane sweep is successful, labour may start within 48 hours.
Membrane sweeps are also considered a natural form of induction method and offered before hormonal induction, encouraging spontaneous labours since it doesn’t involve any drugs at all. It can be done in any clinic setting such as an outpatient antenatal clinic. It is usually done by your community midwife or your doctor. The goal of sweeping the membranes is to initiate labour and thus to reduce the need for more formal induction of labour. After the procedure is done, prostaglandins are released which assist in softening of the cervix and getting contractions started.
Membrane sweeps are a quick simple procedure, and it can be done in just a few minutes. You will be asked to lie down, remove your underwear, be covered in a sheet, and ensuredthat you feel comfortable .The midwife or doctor will also first check your baby’s positionand heartbeat
During the internal vaginal examination, the provider inserts their lubricated finger throughthe vagina and then into the cervix and makes gentle sweeping movements around to detach the amniotic membrane from the cervix. This stretches the cervix at the same time, and this is a bit like ‘removing the peel of an orange.’ Your cervix must be a little bit dilated to do this. It may feel uncomfortable or painful, but you can tell your midwife or doctor to stop at any point if it’s too uncomfortable. Using hypnobirthing, relaxation and breathing techniques can help.
During a membrane sweep there is also a chance that your waters may release or ‘break.’ A sweep may also, not get you into labour, but just make you crampy with irregular contractions and feeling uncomfortable. You might also want to wear a sanitary pad after a membrane sweep as you may have slight spotting or bleeding like a ‘show.’
After the sweep you can go home and go about your normal day.
If you have any concerns following the sweep about bleeding or think your waters have gone or your baby movements change, you should ring your maternity hospital triage without delay.
A sweep that doesn’t work can result in further sweeps and doubting that your body might never go into labour. A sweep may be the trigger for natural labour, but there is no guarantee it will work. It may take several attempts and often have to be done more than once.
Induction of labour and many aspects of induction of labour need further discussion with you and your individual circumstances. Induced labours with artificial hormones are very different from labours that start spontaneously. It also comes with a range of possible side effects. Induced labours may take longer and need closer monitoring. Take the opportunity to discuss your feelings and your preferences.
Its natural to feel impatient in the final weeks of pregnancy. Try to get some rest and relax as you will be meeting your baby soon.