What Is A Membrane Sweep & When Is It Required?

membrane sweep

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The general span of a pregnancy is 40 weeks. Ideally, you should be experiencing labor pangs once you cross the forty week mark. That is when your baby should be ready to take birth.

In many cases of pregnancy, however, the labor pangs are delayed. The contractions do not occur on the due date or even one or two days later. In such cases, the contractions need to be induced.

What Is A Membrane Sweep In Pregnancy?

A membrane sweep is the most basic and commonly used methodology that is used by doctors and midwives to induce labor pains.

Since it is a common and elementary procedure that is often used in pregnancies, you should know all about it to avoid any anxiousness or doubts.

How Is A Membrane Sweep Done?

The process of membrane sweeping for induction of labour is also known as the stretch and sweep process.

  • The membrane sweep method involves your midwife or your doctor inserting a finger into your vagina and feeling your cervix. A sweeping movement is then made by taking the finger just inside of the cervix.
  • This is done in order to separate the amniotic sac from the cervix which helps in the release of prostaglandins. These hormones may induce labor contractions and lead to childbirth.
  • The membrane sweep is also called stripping membrane.

[ Read: How To Induce Labor ]

When Is A Membrane Sweep Required?

A membrane sweep is prescribed in certain conditions to avoid complications of a major kind.

  • When the pregnancy extends into the forty second week, a membrane sweep is suggested to induce labor.
  • Generally in women who are pregnant for the first time, the membrane sweep is carried out in the forty first week itself.
  • In women who have had children before, the limit is stretched on for forty two weeks.
  • The membrane sweep is the least invasive method of inducing labor.

Unnecessary extension of the pregnancy may affect the health of both you and your baby. Your placenta might not be able to supply the requisite amount of food and oxygen to the baby post forty two weeks. Therefore, a membrane sweep becomes necessary.

[ Read: Stages Of Childbirth ]

Pros And Cons Of A Membrane Sweep:

A membrane sweep, though the first labor induction technique offered to overdue pregnant women, has its own advantages and disadvantages.


  • It is a natural procedure to induce contractions that does not use any medication.
  • A membrane sweep usually does not entail any further intervention during the labor hours.
  • The chances of having a C-section are reduced.
  • The process of membrane sweeping can be carried out easily by a midwife. This means that you can continue with your plans of having your baby at home.


  • A membrane sweep procedure is not always effective. You may have to undergo a sweep a couple of times before you get your contractions.
  • It is a natural procedure, but a fairly uncomfortable one. Sometimes the cervix may be located deep inside and difficult to sweep.
  • This process should not be used in the cases where a normal vaginal birth is advised against.
  • A membrane sweep runs the risk of resulting in the breaking of the water bag. This can cause serious infections for your child, especially if you do not get your labor pain on time after it happens.

[ Read: Pineapple To Induce Labor ]


  • A membrane sweep increases the chances of your entering labor within forty eight hours. However, this may not be guaranteed.
  • Doctors and midwives offer a membrane sweep even in cases where the growth of the baby is halted and the baby needs to be delivered.
  • It is a way to induce normal childbirth in place of a cesarean birth.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a membrane sweep or have some medical issues that prevent you from going in for this procedure, you can always go for an alternative process. However, these processes are usually more invasive than a sweep.

We hope this article has been useful for you. Tell us your experiences and opinions. We would love to hear from you.

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