As you get into late pregnancy, you may start to hear the term “membrane sweep” tossed around. Which membrane are they talking about, and why would it need sweeping?
A membrane sweep is a simple induction procedure, used to help get labor started without the use of pharmaceuticals. Your doctor will insert 1-2 gloved fingers into your cervix, and move them in a circular motion to separate the bag of waters (membrane) from your cervix.
Why are membrane sweeps done?
This procedure is done to encourage labor to start. Evidence shows that when membrane sweeps are done in the final weeks of pregnancy, you’re more likely to go into labor on your own, rather than needing Pitocin to get labor started. Your healthcare provider may ask to do a membrane sweep from 38/39 weeks on.
Real talk… Does it hurt?
I’m not going to lie, membrane sweeps are not comfortable. Fortunately, it’s relatively quick, only lasting a few minutes. It can feel similar to getting a pap smear, or a rough cervical exam. But if it works, you may start to feel contractions within a few hours. (yay!)
Does it work?
Membrane sweeps can be quite effective, especially if your body and baby are already ready for labor. It’s especially effective at helping labor progress when you’re close to or past your due date, and can be a great choice if you want to avoid a medically induced labor. That being said, it’s not a sure thing. Your doctor cannot guarantee that a membrane sweep on its own is enough to start labor. Your doctor may ask if you want another one at the following appointment, or later suggest a medical induction.
Are there any risks?
Discomfort is the most common risk associated with membrane sweeps, and you may feel some cramping afterward that can be confused for contractions. You may also have some light bleeding or spotting, so it’s recommended to wear a clean sanitary pad afterwards. There is also a small chance of your water breaking during the procedure, which would then most likely lead to a medical induction there at the hospital.
Not sure what to do when your water breaks? We’ve got you. Click here for step-by-step instructions on what to do.
Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about the benefits and risks of membrane sweeps, and to know if you’re a good candidate for one.
What should I do if I don’t want a membrane sweep?
You have the right to your body and knowing what procedures your doctor is going to use. Your healthcare provider should always get your consent before performing a membrane sweep during a vaginal exam. If you don’t want a membrane sweep, you have the right to refuse this procedure. You can also remind your doctor of your wishes before the beginning of each vaginal exam.
Labor is coming soon, and your baby will be here before you know it! Our birth doulas will stand by your side through pregnancy and walk with you through labor. Once your baby arrives, our postpartum doulas who will help you get on top of all baby related concerns.
Contact us today to talk to one of our doula or to schedule a free consult!