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Membrane Sweep: When And How Is It Done?

5 min read

The ninth month of pregnancy is a long and enduring one. One starts counting the days left for the due date and even starts keeping a check on labor signs, a couple of times, false labor happens as well. Due to the increased weight on the belly, it becomes quite a task for the pregnant woman to be able to move smoothly on the bed and sit or stand as well. In case you have passed the due date, and still, no labor signs are spotted, the doctors can advise adopting a method to trigger the pain. Amongst many available, membrane sweep is one that is very easy and chosen by many.
It is, of course, relevant to understand what precisely a membrane sweep is? When should it be done, and how? Expectations after the procedure, conditions under which it should not be done, benefits and limitations, as well as the success rate. Let us start and get to know about it all.

membrane sweeping

What Is Membrane Sweep?

Membrane sweep, even referred to as cervical sweeping or membrane stripping automatically dilates the cervix, which discharges a hormone that enhances the inception of the natural labor process. It is an effective method but at the same time, could be discomforting as well, due to erratic cramps and some blood loss, yet preferred over many others.

When And How Is A Membrane Sweep Done?

A Membrane sweep is a situation that helps to dilate the cervix automatically. Ideally, one must wait till the due date, and then only the doctor advises to use this method. This method cannot be used for all types of pregnancies and can be only done under a set of circumstances. Some of them are listed as under:

  • It is ideal for first-time mothers and can be done through the 40th week once the due date is over.
  • If you have delivered once, it can only be done in the 41st week in the subsequent pregnancies.
  • It is amongst the safest methods and does not carry any health risks.
  • It is ideal for women who want to give birth naturally or through the vagina.


The medical practitioner rechecks the predicted date of delivery. The pregnant woman should empty her bladder before the procedure. After that, the woman lies down on the table with the feet together and the knees on any side. The doctor then inserts a gloved finger inside the vagina so that they can sense the cervix and even understand the baby’s position. It is then checked if the cervix is suitable to carry the process. If suitable, a circular sweeping is done, that segregates the amniotic pouch from the cervix and the uterine wall. This helps to release a hormone that enhances the childbirth process. The process intensifies the prospect of the inception of labor by 48 hours and delivery by a week. And only if the condition of the cervix is favorable. In case the cervix is not too favorable, then the whole process cannot be carried out. In case the cervix is closed but tender, then a massage is offered to the cervix until it permits the finger to be inserted for increasing its efficacy. In case the cervix does not open, then massage is offered to the vagina so that a hormone gets released that can boost the process. If the labor pain does not even begin after about 36 hours, the whole process gets repeated.

What To Expect After The Procedure?

Membrane sweep though not a very commonly used procedure yet is carried with the women who opt for vaginal childbirth. Given above are the situations under which it should be carried, and it has been seen that the cervix is the main deciding factor in it. We have read when and how it is done, now let us understand the after-effects of getting a membrane sweep. Some of the expectation post the procedures are given as under:

  • After the process gets over, one can experience spotting.
  • It is important to use sanitary pads and then wait for the labor to happen.
  • Once the procedure is done, the doctor even offers advice to take a warm shower and consume painkillers like paracetamol in case one feels pain and discomfort with the cramps.
  • Instant medical help must be taken if there is bleeding, membrane rupture, or intolerable pain.
  • The whole process needs to be repeated if labor does not begin within the stipulated time
  • The process, even though favorable for stimulating natural labor yet is not always advised.

When Should You Not Get A Membrane Sweep Done?

A Membrane sweep is the safest form of processes that are carried to stimulate the labor process and hence, the delivery as well. This process must be carried, keeping the cervix in mind. This is yet not a very common process yet chosen by any. However, it cannot be carried in case the under mentioned situations prevail, and they are:

  • Membrane rupture
  • Placenta placed in a low- lying position
  • Where the cervix is closed
  • Where the head of the baby is not engaged
  • If the mother shows Rh-negative
  • In case of any infections in the vagina

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Membrane Sweep

A Membrane sweep is getting famous with time, as it is the safest bet to stimulate the labor process as well as the delivery. This process is specifically for women who opt for vaginal childbirth. This can be carried under the circumstances mentioned above and should not be done under a situation where there is profuse bleeding, membrane rupture, etc. Every process has a set of benefits and limitations. So, let us have a look at these as below:

Advantages Of Membrane Sweep

  • It boosts the inception of labor
  • Needs no prior booking as it is carried while the pregnancy check-up is done.
  • It is safe and cost-effective

Disadvantages Of Membrane Sweep

  • It causes discomfort and is painful than others.
  • Labour does not initiate in the first go
  • There are chances of the amniotic sac getting ruptured.
  • Spotting, bleeding, and erratic cramps are experienced after the process is over.
  • One of the processes used to kick off the labor process in a natural manner.

What Is The Success Rate Of Membrane Sweep?

Membrane sweeping is not too painful, yet causes discomfort. Its duration is only 5-10 minutes and becomes smoother by using relaxation techniques and breathing exercises as well. The process of membrane sweeping can increase the likelihood of labor by 48 hours by almost 24. The chances to deliver within one week is about 45% and 74% of women deliver within two weeks. The success rate of the membrane sweep depends on the gestational period. The membrane sweep will be more successful in women who have gone overboard their due date.
Thus, it can be said that a membrane sweep is carried out to prevent any medical interferences for engendering labor. In case this choice is advised by the midwife or a medical practitioner, it is always best to find out about its advantages and disadvantages before going ahead with it. This process is only carried out once the pregnant women are comfortable even if recommended by the doctor. So, relax and get this done, get a complete insight into the process, and the way it works for a better understanding and smoother deliveries.

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