When it is time to induce labor, your doctor may use a procedure called a membrane sweep to stimulate your cervix. Basically, the doctor or a midwife will insert a finger into your cervix to try to partition the membranes using a sweeping movement. This may be called a membrane stretch or a membrane sweep. If the initial sweep does not work to stimulate your cervix, the doctor may use a sweeping movement to try to speed the process. Fortunately for many women, the membrane sweep success rate is fairly high.
The Success Rate of a Membrane Sweep
Once you have had a membrane sweep, you have a 24 percent chance of delivering your baby within the next week. When it takes more than 36 hours for labor to begin after a membrane sweep, your doctor may perform the procedure again. After having a second procedure, the membrane sweep success rate is higher. Doctors may not choose to do a second sweep because it carries some risks. For riskier pregnancies, they may hold off on doing another sweep. When the membrane sweep does not cause labor to start, the doctor may do a Syntocinon drip or an ARM.
When Should a Membrane Sweep Be Performed?
Typically, a doctor will wait until your overdue before they perform a membrane sweep. If you are worried about having one, then you do not have to worry until you have passed 41 weeks. Doctors may recommend doing this procedure if you are having more than one child or if your baby has not grown according to normal expectations. This procedure may also be recommend for women who have symphysis pubis dysfunction, gestational diabetes, obstetric cholestasis or pre-eclampsia.
How Is This Procedure Performed?
To ensure a high membrane sweep success rate, your doctor or midwife must do the procedure properly. You can always discuss the details of the procedure with your obstetrician to find out the specific risks and benefits. In general, a membrane sweep is not particularly difficult.
Before you have the procedure performed, you should go to the bathroom and make sure that your bladder is completely emptied. Afterward, you midwife will do an abdominal exam to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. As long as everything is normal, a membrane sweep can be performed.
Once the doctor or the midwife has determined that everything is going fine with your baby, they will put on gloves before inserting two fingers into your vagina. They will feel the cervix to see if it is soft or dilated. If your cervix has started to thin, they will continue with the membrane sweep. If your cervix is still closed and high, then they may not continue with the procedure. When your cervix is closed and high, it is more painful and not an ideal time to do the membrane sweep.
When the doctor decides to go through with the procedure, they will use their fingers to feel around for the membranes that are around the baby. Using their fingers, the doctor will sweep some of the membranes off of the cervix. Likewise, the doctor may use their fingers to massage the opening of the cervix so that it gradually opens up more. Afterward, they will rotate their fingers within the opening of the cervix to promote stretching and the removal of membranes that could be in the way. If this procedure is done by a midwife, she or he must be exceptionally experienced so that they do not actually break or rupture the membrane.
What Are the Advantages of Performing a Membrane Sweep?
Like most medical procedures, there are certain risks and benefits associated with using a membrane sweep. The main benefit (and the reason why this procedure is done) is that it can induce labor without you having to get an induction. A membrane sweep helps to ripen your cervix, and the membrane sweep success rate for labor induction is fairly high.
The main side effect experienced by women who receive a membrane sweep is that the experience is rather invasive and can be uncomfortable. If you are too worried about undergoing the membrane sweep, then it can reduce the effectiveness of the procedure and increase the discomfort that you may feel. If you are concerned about having a membrane sweep, make sure to discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
When comfort is an issue, it can be difficult to try a membrane sweep. The membrane sweep success rate is lower when you are uncomfortable, which makes this procedure less useful for overly worried or sensitive individuals. There is also a very real risk of cramping or bleeding following the procedure. In some circumstances, your water may even become broken.
What Does It Feel Like?
The way that the membrane sweep feels is entirely dependent on the condition of your cervix. When the cervix is already dilated or soft, the procedure will not hurt as much. If it is not soft or the cervix is positioned high, it can end up being more painful. No matter what state your cervix is in, it may still be uncomfortable to undergo the procedure, but this discomfort will normally pass.