Your questions on having membrane sweep during pregnancy answered with advice on what membrane sweeping is and why your midwife may suggest it.
What is a membrane sweep?
A membrane sweep is one of the more 'natural' means of encouraging your baby to arrive if you have passed your due date with no sign of labour starting on its own. They are often offered to pregnant women as a first alternative as they can significantly increase the chance that your baby will arrive within the next 48 hours and thereby reduce the need for other, more chemically based, methods of labour induction such as prostin gel or ARM (artificial rupture of the membranes).
How are they carried out?
Usually, a membrane sweep will be carried out by your doctor or midwife either while you're at home or in the doctors surgery itself. They are performed during an internal examination and involve your midwife inserting a finger into your cervix (to stretch it a little) and then making a firm, circular, sweeping movement around the neck of your womb. This movement helps to separate your cervix from the membranes of the sac that is currently housing your baby, and is a procedure that helps to stimulate the release of prostaglandins - the hormones that signal to your brain that it's time to start labour.
How effective is a membrane sweep?
There is no guarantee that having a membrane sweep will induce labour, its effectiveness will ultimately depend on how ready your body is to give birth. To gauge this, when examining you internally your midwife will feel for your cervix; it if has begun to soften and efface then a membrane sweep is more likely to succeed as your body has already started to prepare for labour. However, if your midwife has trouble feeling your cervix because it's still sitting high a membrane sweep is less likely to be effective and in some cases your midwife may suggest you wait a little longer before having a sweep.
Opinions vary greatly as to whether membrane sweeps should be routinely given to women who are overdue. So, as with most things maternity related, whether you will be offered one should you go past your due date will largely depend on your midwife. However, it is important to note that even if your midwife suggests a membrane sweep, if you don't feel comfortable with the procedure and would prefer your baby to arrive in his or her own time, you are perfectly within your rights to decline.
What are the risks?
Having your 'membranes swept' does not increase the likelihood of infection for you or your baby. It may however cause light spotting or irregular contractions afterwards. Additionally, the extent to which the membrane sweep will feel uncomfortable differs from woman to woman and while some find it absolutely fine, others experience more discomfort.
Your midwife will be able to provide you with more information on the suitability of membrane sweeping for your individual circumstances should the need arrive and will explain all of your options if baby is taking his or her time to arrive.
Have you been offered a membrane sweep to start off your labour or have you experienced one before in a previous pregnancy? Why not share your questions, advice and concerns with other Mums and Dads to be in the Askbaby forums.