What Is a Pregnancy Sweep?

What Is a Pregnancy Sweep?

Are you reaching the end of your pregnancy and bring offered a membrane sweep and you’re left wondering what on earth it is or if you should do this. We have all the juicy details surrounding the option to have the procedure done or not. 

Article Contents

What Is a Membrane Sweep?

A “stretch and sweep”, otherwise known as a pregnancy sweep, is a method of bringing on labour to avoid going overdue (past your due date/42 weeks). This is practically the same process which is carried out through an internal examination at all of your appointments, however, offered to you at around 40-41 weeks pregnant (41 weeks if this is your second baby). Your midwife will speak to you about how to bring on labour naturally from your 38 week antenatal visit. 


What Happens During the Procedure?

During a membrane sweep, your midwife or doctor will insert their finger into the opening of your cervix and will begin to move their finger around. This should begin to hopefully separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from the cervix. This should create a gap between them and this will in turn allow your body to produce a hormone known as “prostaglandins” which will kickstart your body into the early stages of labour.

As your cervix may be difficult to access in order to do a full sweeping motion, your midwife may just begin massaging your cervix in order to encourage your cervix to soften and begin the dilation. It’s usually considered a 48 hour window for you to then go into labour after having the procedure done but women can have up to 3-4 sweeps before other induction options are considered. Some babies are just a little too stubborn to come out. 

What Happens After the Procedure?

Generally speaking you can return to your daily routine straight after the procedure but there are some side effects which can hold you back during the day. You may experience the following; 

  • Discomfort, 
  • Slight cramping, 
  • Spotting and bleeding, 
  • Pain, 
  • Tiredness. 

There is a very small chance of your membranes rupturing which would cause you to be in severe pain and experience heavy bleeding. In which case you should contact your midwife or doctor. You should contact them if you’re feeling out of sorts or if you’re experiencing severe pain. 


Is a Pregnancy Sweep Compulsory?

Like anything during your pregnancy, you have the choice, it’s not compulsory. But believe me when I say that at the end of a long 9 months, you’ll be begging for this. You can opt for the membrane sweep at 40 weeks for your first baby and 41 weeks if this is your second, third or fourth baby. 

Some midwives will continue to do the membrane sweep every 72 hours to try and bring on labour this way. You will not have the chance to have a pregnancy sweep if your waters have broken prior to this due to the risk of infection. 

What Are the Pro’s of the Procedure? 

A pregnancy sweep is not for everyone. As with everything, there are positives and negatives, it’s very situational. Let’s discuss the pros of having a membrane sweep; 

Success is on the cards:

You would walk in, have the procedure and within a few hours be back on the way to the hospital as it’s been a huge success and your baby is on the way. Many women have believed this is what brought on their labour and would 100% do it again. 

No Medical Intervention:

Whilst seen as intervention, just as everything is which brings on labour before you or baby are ready, it is not medical intervention. Meaning no drugs, medicines or any hospital care is needed. If you’re looking to avoid medical intervention, this is a good place to start. 

Quick and Easy:

The process completed within minutes and you can be back out getting on with your daily tasks which you have set for the day. If you’re someone who loves staying busy, this option is probably a great one for you. 


What Are the Con's of the Procedure? 

As with everything, there are also a few cons to match, which can sway your decision when not knowing what option to choose. 


The biggest downfall to the procedure, is the procedure. It can often leave women feeling uncomfortable having the doctor putting pressure in an area where there is already an awful lot of pressure. The medical professional will know you feel uncomfortable and will try their best to avoid this but they have said the more vigorous the motion, the better the chances are of it working. 

Failure to succeed:

Just as happy as you would be for the procedure working, the same can be for the procedure failing. You can be left feeling disheartened that you’re not able to be kickstarted into labour but it’s important to remain calm and relaxed. Not everyone will react correctly the first time, or even the second or third. Just believe that everything happens for a reason and your baby is probably just as stubborn as you are. 

Slow Labour:

So not only has your pregnancy seemed to drag over the last 9 months, your now also having the chance of being kicked started into a slow labour. Meaning you’re progressing very slowly whilst looking for signs of labour. If you’re spending time looking for signs of pain, this can make your active labour a most painful one, so you won’t be helping yourself at all.

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