Have you been offered a ‘stretch and sweep’… do you actually know what it is, what it involves and what it might mean for your labor and birth?
A membrane sweep involves a vaginal examination, where your midwife or doctor will insert a finger into your cervix (so an effective sweep requires your cervix to be open at least a little), sweep their finger around the inside of the cervix, in order to separate the membranes (or sac) surrounding your body, and potentially stimulate the cervix enough to bring on contractions. It can be a particularly uncomfortable procedure and may or may not be a helpful first stage of induction. (But it is that, a method of induction).
There have been several randomized controlled trails into membrane sweeping, and if you’re faced with the offer of a sweep, it’s helpful to know what they showed!
For women who opted for a sweep at 41 weeks (1 weeks after their due date) it decreased their chances of reaching 42 weeks from 41% down to 23%, so pretty much halving their changes of a ‘post dates’ pregnancy. Most trails also showed a decrease in the overall length of pregnancy by around 4 days. If you’re opting for a formal medical induction, starting a sweep can also reduce the chances of you requiring syntocinon to bring on labor.
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Before you jump the gun … it’s important to understand both side of the picture when making a decision. For around 1 in 10 women, the stretch and sweep will cause their waters to break, which may put them in a situation where labor is brought on very quickly (breaking your waters is the second step of a medical induction), or leave you in a position where you are not in labor, but your waters has broken-which after24 hours in some countries will lead the offer of a medical induction, and for many it lengthened the ‘early’ stop, start stage of labor, giving woman irregular contractions, but not putting them into active labor. Credit: @positivelybirthing
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