Pregnancy is a great miracle, a special time, when you can feel happy and thankful as you anticipate your imminent parenthood. But what’s better, is finally meeting your little one and experiencing that rush of happiness. Your due dates usually give you a timeline of when you might meet your baby. The estimated due dates are usually around 40 weeks after you conceive. But some research has shown that only about 4 percent of all babies are born on their exact due dates.
Often, expecting moms find that they have crossed their due date. And while some moms choose wait to go into labour naturally, another option is to induce labour to avoid being too overdue - i.e, when you cross your estimated due dates. Induced labour is tried when you are over 10 to 12 days overdue.
So when you cross this date and the doctor decides to induce labour, the membrane sweep is the first attempt at inducing labour.
The terminology may be confusing, but here are some simple facts about the membrane sweep that you should know before you make your important choice:
Q: How Is It Done?
A: During an internal examination, your doctor will insert a finger in your cervix, and gently but firmly move her finger around. This helps stretch out and separate the membranes in the cervix. When these membranes separate, your body secretes a hormone called prostaglandin, which can kickstart your labour.
Some women find this procedure painful as the cervix is higher and tougher to reach if it has not softened or is not ready for labour yet. In such cases, the breathing techniques they learn for delivery tend to be helpful to try and relax through the process.
Q: When Is a Membrane Sweep Offered?
A: Pregnancy lasts as long as 40 weeks, and labour starts on its own. A membrane sweep is offered in the following situations:
- If labour pains do not start by the 42nd week of pregnancy.
- For first time moms, the sweep is offered in the 41st week of pregnancy if labour pains have not started.
- For women who have delivered before, a membrane sweep is offered in 41 weeks.
Q: When Will I Go Into Labour After A Membrane Sweep?
A: When your doctor performs a membrane sweep, it increases the likelihood that your labour will start within the next 48 hours. If it does not work immediately, your doctor will try to simply stretch out the membranes. So it is also called the ‘stretch and sweep’, because the doctor stretches out and then separates or sweeps the membranes to induce labour.
Q: What Are The Benefits?
A: The membrane sweep is the first option suggested by the doctor to induce labour when you are overdue, because it is less invasive than the other methods. The other method of inducing labour includes inserting the hormone prostaglandin into the cervix, which is done by inserting it in tablet form.
Although the sweep does not guarantee labour immediately, it reduces the chance of using more invasive methods. You may be offered more than one membrane sweep for this reason.
Q: What Are The Risks?
A: If your water has not broken yet, a membrane sweep is not necessarily risky. If your waters have broken but labour has not started yet, a membrane sweep is not recommended because it could create an infection risk.
You should also avoid membrane sweeps in case of low-lying placentas, closed cervix or rupture of membrane. See a doctor immediately if the sweep leads to extreme pain, discomfort or blood loss.
Q: How Can I Avoid Induced Labour?
A: While this is not entirely up to you, there are some natural ways to kickstart your labour. They include taking long walks, prenatal yoga (guided and supervised) and in case your water has not broken yet, you can try having sexual intercourse. Before trying these out, you should speak to your doctor and avoid overdoing any of them - moderation is key!
Induced labour is an option that your doctors will offer you if you’re overdue so that any potential pregnancy complications can be avoided, and your baby’s safety can be confirmed. Know all of your options before you make a choice! Stay informed!
Have you had a membrane sweep done before? What was it like? Let all the other mommies know below!