What is a membrane sweep?

Has your midwife booked you in for a ‘sweep’ to help bring on your labour and you’re not quite sure what to expect?

Well, read on…

So the definition from Babycentre is:

A membrane sweep is a way of bringing on labour when you’re overdue. It’ll be the first step your midwife or doctor offers, before other methods of induction, to get your labour going. Your midwife or doctor will carry out the procedure.

But what exactly is it?

Well, without the gory details,usually offered to first time Mums at 41 weeks the midwife carries out an internal examination by sweeping a finger around your cervix (neck of your womb) six times in one direction and six in the other to try to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from the cervix and release hormones (prostaglandins) which may start labour without the risk of infection to you or your baby.

For a sweep to be carried out properly, the position of the womb should have started to come forward, and also the cervix started to ripen. If neither of these things have happened, it may not be possible for your midwife to do the sweep, so they may try to carry out the stretch part to try to massage your cervix meaning a sweep may be carried out at the next appointment once it has started to open.

In theory, the sweep can increase the chances of labour starting within 24 to 48 hours, and obviously has greater chance if the cervix has already started softening in preparation for labour.  Afterwards, you may experience some slight spotting of blood, irregular contractions or loss of the mucus plug.

I won’t lie to you though… It really isn’t an enjoyable experience and doesn’t always work.

I have had three sweeps with this pregnancy now – all of varying pain levels because of the position and thickness of my cervix – and found the 3rd one to be really uncomfortable and upsetting.

Unfortunately, now at 10 days overdue, all three have been unsuccessful in bringing labour on so far.

So more of the waiting game…

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