A cervical membrane sweep in pregnancy can be an effective first step to encourage labour if you're overdue.
A membrane sweep - somtimes referred to as a cervical sweep - is the first option you may be offered if you go overdue. It can be done during a normal internal examination and involves your doctor or midwife using her finger to literally “sweep” around the cervix (the neck of your womb) to detach the membranes around your baby.
It will encourage the release of prostaglandins, which are hormones that tell your body you’re ready for labour.
You definitely shouldn’t try this one at home, but it can be a useful way of stimulating labour if you're overdue and other traditional methods of encouraging birth haven’t worked.
If this is your first pregnancy, it’s recommended that you're offered a membrane sweep at your 40 week antenatal appointment. If you choose not to and still haven’t gone into labour by week 41, you’ll be offered the chance again. If this isn’t your first baby, you’ll be routinely offered a sweep at 41 weeks.
A membrane sweep won’t definitely start your labour. In many cases, it will only work if your cervix is already nearly “ripe” and softened ready for birth. If it doesn’t work first time, you may be offered another sweep a few days or a week later. After this, more comprehensive methods of induction are available.
A membrane sweep can feel a little uncomfortable, as your cervix may be difficult to reach before you go into labour. Some women do find it a little painful, so try to relax and practice the breathing techniques you've learnt in antenatal classes. Immediately afterwards you may notice irregular contractions and some women experience spotting. Other methods of induction can be more uncomfortable and invasive, so in most cases you'll be offered a sweep before these are considered.
If the sweep works you may have a “bloody show” as the mucus plug sealing your womb comes out. This may be followed by your waters breaking, though this may not happen until you're in full-blown labour. You'll then start to have contraction as your body begins to give birth.
It sounds minging but ask them to not be gentle. I had one that did nothing and a really uncomfortable one that started me off. It's two minutes and then it's over. Not the most dignified few minutes of your life but it's not that terrible.
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