Everything you need to know about a membrane sweep

Everything you need to know about a membrane sweep

If you are overdue and your baby isn't showing signs of making her grand debut any time soon, you might need to get a membrane sweep. But what exactly is it and what should you expect?

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If you are already 40 weeks pregnant, your baby will be considered overdue

The nine months of pregnancy might have flown by, but towards the end of your third trimester when you’re excitedly counting down the days to your baby’s estimated date of delivery (EDD), time might seem to be going by so slowly as you anxiously await her arrival.

If you have reached the 40 weeks mark and your little one still does not show any signs of popping out any time soon, she will be considered overdue and you probably will begin to feel a little impatient or even worried.

Besides turning to homeopathy to induce labour, or other non-conventional ways (such as eating durian!) to get your bub to hurry on out, your doctor might suggest you have a membrane sweep, otherwise known as a cervical sweep or a stretch and sweep.

What exactly is a membrane sweep?

A membrane sweep is a simple procedure to try to trigger labour when your baby is overdue and it’s usually the first method of induction your midwife or doctor will offer.

It is the separation of the membranes of the amniotic sac surrounding your baby from your cervix, that will encourage the release of hormones called prostaglandins which helps trigger labour and is considered a relatively simple labour stimulation technique.

A membrane sweep will help to increase the chances of labour kicking in within 48 hours, although there is a higher chance of working only if your cervix is already softening and preparing for labour.

If you are a first-time mum and your baby is overdue, you might be offered a membrane sweep at your prenatal check-up at 40 weeks and once again at 41 weeks.

But if this isn’t your first pregnancy, then you probably will be offered a membrane sweep only at your 41-week prenatal check-up.

Some doctors will offer a membrane sweep every 72 hours until it is successful and your little one finally decides to come out.

What happens at a membrane sweep?

During an internal examination, your doctor or midwife will insert a lubricated finger into your vagina and into the opening of your cervix to gently but firmly move her finger around in vigorous, circular, sweeping movements.

This is to separate your amniotic sac from the cervix itself, or she might try to stretch or massage your cervix to start the ripening of your cervix.

The whole procedure will only take about five to ten minutes – similar to the duration of a PAP smear test.

If labour has not started yet after 48 – 36 hours, your doctor will either recommend another membrane sweep after 72 hours, or booking an induction date.

While waiting, you will be allowed to go home and it is a good idea to wear a sanitary pad in case there will be any discharge, minor blood loss or if the membrane sweep triggers your “bloody show“.

You may also choose to have a nice warm bath to help relieve any discomfort or pain – which can be quite normal for some women – and try to get as much rest as you can before your labour begins.

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Getting a membrane sweep may not painful, but it will be quite uncomfortable

How effective is it?

A membrane sweeps may not be completely effective in triggering labour and may even take up to 48 hours to work, so it’s up to you to weigh out the positive and negative sides before agreeing to getting one.


  • It is a natural method of stimulating the onset of labour
  • You can avoid further intervention which could possibly lead to getting an unplanned Caesarean section or an episiotomy
  • You can have a membrane sweep done in the hospital or even at home


  • It feels quite uncomfortable
  • You might accidentally get your water bag broken, which could increase the risk of infection to your baby
  • It is not 100% effective in triggering labour

However, you can also choose to forgo the membrane sweep because although it is a less invasive way of inducing labour, it is not guaranteed that it will work for you.

Were you overdue and had to get a membrane sweep? Did it work for you? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.

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