Pregnancy can be exhausting. It consumes so many of your resources, and especially towards the end, a lot of women can’t wait for it to be over. That is why some may want a membrane sweep.
Basically, a membrane sweep is a way to induce labor. Whether or not it’s right for you depends on your specific situation, but it’s something you can discuss with your doctor. You should keep in mind, though, that it’s not exactly a fun procedure.
Every person and every pregnancy is different. Although getting the procedure may help you meet your baby more quickly, it may not be the best thing for everyone. You should definitely put some thought into whether or not getting a membrane sweep is right for you before you make the decision.
What Is A Membrane Sweep?
If you’ve never discussed this procedure with your OB-GYN, it’s very possible that you’ve never heard of it. However, if you end up pregnant and at risk of the pregnancy lasting too long, it could be very applicable.
Usually, a doctor carries out the membrane sweep procedure. However, a midwife can do it as well. It happens during an internal examination.
What Happens During The Procedure?
The person performing the examination will attempt to put a finger into the opening of your cervix. This is the very outside of your womb. The examiner will move the finger around in a gentle but firm fashion.
Basically, the practitioner will gently lift the amniotic sac, or fetal membrane, from the cervix and lower part of the uterus. The practitioner does this using a sweeping motion, which is why it’s called a membrane sweep.
The purpose of this is to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac that surround your baby from your cervix. Once these are separated, hormones (specifically, prostaglandins) should be released that can kickstart labor.
Why Do People Have This Procedure?
People may choose to have this procedure because it doesn’t involve equipment or drugs, and it can effectively coax someone into labor.
The idea is that it should lead to a natural release of chemicals, making it less risky than medications that practitioners will typically administer for induction.
The main purpose is to minimize the need for a medical induction after the due date, which is why professionals tend to recommend it more often for women who have a history of going past their due dates in pregnancies.
Is It Always Possible To Perform The Procedure?
In some cases, it won’t be possible to do a full sweep or separation. In this situation, The examiner can still try to either massage or stretch your cervix. The stimulation from this contact could be enough to slightly soften and open your cervix.
A membrane sweep has the highest chance of working if your cervix is already softening and getting ready for labor. However, if it doesn’t work, the stretching and massaging procedure could help. It could prepare your cervix for a membrane sweep the next time you see the examiner.
When Are You A Candidate For This Procedure?
If this is your first pregnancy, your practitioner should offer you a membrane sweep at your antenatal appointments at 40 and 41 weeks. If you’ve been pregnant before, they should offer it to you at your 41 week appointment. There are some practitioners who will offer a membrane sweep every 72 hours.
If you’ve gone past your due date, practitioner should be offering you membrane sweeps before considering other types of induction. They may offer you two or three membrane sweeps before suggesting induction of labor in some other way.
Believe it or not, membrane sweeps are less invasive and/or dangerous than some other ways that they could induce you, which is why they start with them.
The obvious goal of a membrane sweep is to induce labor. It doesn’t necessarily do it right away, but it makes it more likely that labor will start within 48 hours.
Things You Should Know About Membrane Sweeps
If you’re a candidate for a membrane sweep, there are a few things you should know. Specifically, there are few things that you should keep in mind before you have the procedure.
How Do You Prepare?
You actually don’t need to do anything to prepare for this procedure. All you do is go to your practitioner, get up on the exam table like you would for a normal checkup, and let the practitioner perform the procedure.
The most important thing you can really do is make sure to breathe through it and try to be as relaxed as you can.
Does It Hurt?
A membrane sweep can be an uncomfortable procedure. This is because it can be difficult to reach your cervix before the beginning of labor. For some women, the procedure is actually painful.
Every woman is different, so it’s hard to say whether the procedure will be painful for you. Most people would just describe it as uncomfortable. The good news is that the procedure only lasts for about a minute, and even if it is painful, the pain will be short-lived with no residual pain after the membrane sweep is over.
Is It Safe?
You should be aware that sometimes, you might have cramps similar to those that you experience during menstruation after you get this procedure done. You can also experience light spotting. However, these are usually the worst residual symptoms, and they’re no cause for alarm.
Your cervix is very vascular, meaning that there are a lot of blood vessels in that area. This is the reason for the light bleeding that you might experience. However, if you happen to experience heavy bleeding or a lot of pain, you should definitely consult with your practitioner as soon as possible or even go to the hospital.
However, it’s a safe procedure. There are some cases where your water will break, but that’s usually the biggest risk. This can make a mess, but it’s generally not going to be harmful.
Studies have shown that there aren’t any increased risks for negative side effects. For example, women who undergo the membrane sweep procedure aren’t more likely to end up having to have c-sections or other complications. Most of the time, women will only need to have the procedure done once in order for it to work properly.
If you experience any sort of heavy bleeding or other types of leaking fluid after the procedure, you should call your healthcare provider.
How Effective Is The Procedure?
Experts actually question sometimes whether or not membrane sweeping is really effective. Evidence would point to the answer being yes, but there’s no conclusive proof.
It really depends on how far along a woman is in her pregnancy, as well as whether or not she’s used any other methods to induce labor. The procedure is most effective when no other methods are used.
It’s also likely that the procedure might be most effective for women who are past their due dates, rather than a week or two before. It’s not as effective as other types of induction, such as medications.
Generally, practitioners will use it in situations when there’s no pressing medical reason to induce the pregnancy in a more effective way, since it’s less invasive and less likely to come with negative side effects.
Image by flickr
When Can You Get One?
You can only get a membrane sweep at 38 weeks into your pregnancy and later. That is because, in order to do a sweep, the cervix needs to already be partially open. If your body isn’t already preparing for labor, your cervix will be firmly closed and unreachable, so your practitioner won’t be able to do a sweep at all.
However, this doesn’t mean you should just get the procedure without thinking about it. You should only consider it with your doctor if you’ve gotten to a stage in your pregnancy where you’re in a lot of pain and it doesn’t seem like labor is happening anytime soon.
Unless there’s some sort of a medical concern, it’s typically best to just let your pregnancy take its natural course.
Coming To A Sweeping Conclusion…
Now that you know more about membrane sweeps, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed decision if one is ever offered to you. Most people have the procedure wouldn’t describe it as pleasant. For this reason, you probably won’t choose to have one unless you actually need it.
However, if you’re in a situation where you need it, it might be a good idea. This is because once your pregnancy is already overdue, your baby is just going to be getting bigger and bigger. If you don’t have a professional induce labor, the labor could be torturous when it actually ends up happening.
You should definitely talk to your doctor and see if a membrane sweep is right for you. It could very well be the best decision for you and your baby. It’s always good to know as much as you can before you figure out what you’re going to do.
Have you had the membrane sweep procedure? Let us know in the comments section!