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What Is A Membrane Sweep?

4 min read

The amazing experience of carrying a baby is one of a lifetime and nothing can match to the out of the world phenomenon of giving birth to a new life. What Is A Membrane Sweep? Read on.
The growing fetus is present in an amniotic sac or the ‘bag of waters’. The sac is composed of double membranes and contains amniotic fluid that protects the baby from any harmful injury or shock.
Preparing for membrane sweep
The duration of pregnancy is 40 completed weeks and the onset of labor pains is usually on its own. But sometimes the uterine contractions do not commence on the due date or within one week after the due date. Contractions are supposed to be induced in such circumstances. Find out 8 effective exercises to induce labor here.


What Is Membrane Sweep Or Cervical Sweep?
How Is A Membrane Or Cervical Sweep Done?
When Is Cervical Sweep Offered?
Pros And Cons Of Membrane Sweep
When Not To Get A Membrane Sweep Done?
Is A Membrane Sweep Painful?


What Is Membrane Sweep Or Cervical Sweep?

Sometimes referred to as a stretch and sweep, cervical sweep or cervical sweep is actually a manual stimulation of your cervix to release of hormone called prostaglandins which can initiate the process of labor. It is likely to be offered to you if you are overdue – if you are a first time mom, then at 40 weeks and again at 41 weeks. And if you are a second time mom then you will be offered a cervical sweep at 41 weeks antenatal appointment.
Since decades, membrane sweep is the most common and widely prevalent method of labor induction or uterine contraction induction. Accuracy and meticulousness is needed to do a membrane sweep properly and correctly.

How Is A Cervical Sweep Done?

The procedure, also termed as ‘sweep process’ or ‘stretch’ and is done in the following manner:
The pregnant lady is asked to lie on the labor table in ‘lithotomy’ position. Strict asepsis is maintained and the doctor inserts her finger in lady’s vagina and feels the cervix. A gentle sweep movement is done inside the cervix. This separates the amniotic sac or ‘bag of water’ from the cervix and releases chemicals called prostaglandins. The prostaglandins induce labor pains and facilitate childbirth
The process of cervical sweep is also referred as ‘stripping membrane’. The entire procedure of membrane stripping is called as ‘sweep and stretch process’ because during this technique the doctor or midwife stretches your cervix if sweeping is not easy. This stimulates and ripens the cervix. The cervix becomes soft and dilates.

When Is Membrane Sweep Offered?

In women who have had kids before the membrane sweep is done in Stripping membrane or membrane sweep is needed in following conditions to check any unwanted complications from arising:

  • If the labor pain does not start beyond 42 weeks, the need for membrane sweep arises
  • In women expecting for the first time or primigravidae, the membrane sweep is done in the forty first week to induce labor pains
  • In women who have had kids before the membrane sweep is offered in forty two weeks

Since this is a safe and non invasive procedure for labor induction, it is a widely prevalent technique. You can read more about induced labor here.
Extending the pregnancy beyond forty two weeks is pointless and can adversely affect the health and wellness of both the baby and the mother. The placenta is inefficient in meeting the oxygen and nutritional requirements of the fetus beyond forty-two weeks so delivery becomes essential.
Preparing for cervical sweep

Pros And Cons Of Cervical Sweep

Like any other technique, the cervical sweep has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Just have a look at a few of them:

Advantages Or Pros Of Cervical Sweep

Following are the advantages of membrane stretch and sweep.

  • No involvement of any sort of medication as membrane sweep is natural procedure for starting uterine contractions
  • Besides membrane sweep no other procedure is involved during induction of labor
  • Being simple the procedure can be done easily by a doctor or a trained midwife. So you can think of having a home delivery
  • With this natural technique the probability of caesarean section is lessened

Disadvantages Or Cons Of Cervical Sweep

  • The problems of this procedure is that sometimes sweep is not effective and is done repeatedly couple of times before labor contractions set in
  • It is a little uncomfortable process and if the cervix is located high up, sweeping becomes a bit difficult
  • This procedure should not be done if normal vaginal birth is not advised
  • There is a risk of amniotic bag rupture associated with membrane sweep. This can make your child vulnerable to some serious infections

The sweep stretch amplifies your chances of inducing labor within forty eight hours though it is not a sure shot method.

When Not To Get A Membrane Sweep Done?

Under following conditions cervical sweep is not done as a safe technique for labor induction.

  • The process should not be done if you are having unexplained bleeding
  • When vaginal delivery is not contraindicated due to any complication
  • Do not get for membrane stripping if you have B strep infection because stripping can worsen the situation

Is A Membrane Sweep Painful?

Not really, but we would be lying if we say that it is not uncomfortable. Though the procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes and some women can find it a bit painful as well. However, if you have been practicing breathing and relaxing techniques, you will find them handy. Also, if you are not comfortable with the idea of of someone reaching your cervix, you can decline the offer. You should also know that membrane sweeps are not always successful to bring on labor, though it seems like a ‘natural’ way to induce labor in many women.

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