1. What is a membrane sweep?
A membrane sweep is also known as stripping the membranes, stretch and sweep or as the Hamilton maneovre in medical terminology, this is a technique used for pregnant women who have not started labour, to atempt to start it in an artificial way, before practicing other induction techniques.
2. What does a membrane sweep consist of?
Your physician or midwife will try to insert a finger into the entrance of your cervix, between the amniotic membranes and the uterus. Then, gently but in a firm way, he will move the finger in a circular way trying to separate these two structures. If done correctly, this technique will release prostaglandins, which are the hormones capable of start the labour process.
3. Does a membrane sweep always kick-start labour?
A membrane sweep should increase the chances that labour will start in the next 48 hours. If your cervix is already developing the changes associated with oncoming labour (softening and dilation), the chances become higher. The outcome of this technique may vary from woman to woman, needing just one or more than one sweep, or passing directly to induction methods.
4. In what cases is a membrane sweep recommended?
If you are overdue with more than 40 to 41 weeks pregnant – this decision depends on the protocol of where you are based
If you have an underlying medical condition like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pelvic-fetus disproportion, etc., putting at risk either you and/or your baby
If your baby´s growth is not as expected
If you have a multifetal pregnancy.
5. Is a membrane sweep obligatory?
No, it is not in most places. If you want to and as long is it safe, you can refuse to have a membrane sweep and wait for the labour to start naturally or go straight to induction. It is normally your choice. Either way, talk to your physician or midwife for recommendations.
6. Does a membrane sweep hurt?
Some women find this technique painful. Due to the anatomic status of the structures involved, the membrane sweep can be uncomfortable. If you have practiced some relaxation techniques, it is ecommended to do so during the procedure.
7. What happens after a membrane sweep?
You may notice some bleeding, abdominal pains or irregular contractions after it. If nothing happens in the next days, your physician or midwife will discuss with you the possibility to have another sweep and keep trying this procedure or go straight to induction methods.