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  • Writer's pictureLauren Riordan

To Sweep or Not to Sweep?

Congratulations! You're nearing the end of your pregnancy and ready to meet baby. Your suitcase is packed, carseat installed and all of your baby clothes smell of Dreft. You are READY! But not. You've done a good job at keeping baby comfy in that dark and warm womb of yours.

At your 40-week prenatal appointment, your OB-GYN or Midwife mentions giving you a membrane sweep, also known as a membrane strip, to help induce you naturally.

Now all the questions start flooding in. What is a membrane sweep? Does it hurt? Does it work? Can I refuse? Well my friend, grab some coffee and lets dig into some evidence-based information!

What is a membrane sweep?

Let's rip that bandaid off and get right to it. This procedure is done during a vaginal exam towards the end of your pregnancy. The care provider will insert their finger into your vagina, towards your dilated cervix and make a sweeping motion to separate the membrane that surrounds your baby and your uterus.

Does it work?

The membrane sweep can be an effective way to induce labor without the use of drugs. It can also decrease your pregnancy by 4 days and gives you the option of a more natural labor. And, to give you peace of mind, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Gynecology found no correlation between membrane sweeps and cesarean sections or infections.

Does it hurt?

For many women, it is painful. Speaking as someone who's had it done, I can tell you it's a pretty unpleasant experience. According to a study by Evidence Based Birth, 70% of women rated the pain a 7 our of 10 with 10 being the worst pain possible.

Are there any risks?

Membrane sweeps can cause your uterus to be irritable and result in irregular contractions. And, that can lead to uncertainty about whether or not labor is starting.

In addition, 9% of women will have their water break from getting their membranes swept. For some, this may be the start of labor, but if your water breaks and labor does not start right away, it may lead to a longer and more medically induced labor.

Can I refuse?

Yes. Absolutely. This is your birth experience. You have the right to refuse, do your research and make an informed decision. Always ask questions, because some care providers will perform the sweep without your knowledge (speaking again from experience).

In the end, the decision is yours. I officially empower you to ask questions and make the final call about your birth experience. Never feel pressured. You have cared for that baby for nine months, and you've done an amazing job.

You've got this, mamma'!

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