What Is A Sweep and Why Would I Need One?
A 'sweep' is the short form of the term 'membrane sweep' or 'cervical sweep'. It is a procedure where your midwife or obstetrician inserts their fingers into your cervix during an internal examination. During the procedure using a circular sweeping movement, they will attempt to separate your cervix and the membranes of the amniotic sac surrounding your baby.
The separation of the membranes during the sweep releases a hormone called prostaglandins which helps loosen your cervix helping to kick-start labour.
Membrane sweeps are the most favourable methods of induction for pregnant women across the world and have been proven to increase the chances of labour starting naturally within 48 hours. However, they can only be performed if your cervix is favourable meaning your cervix must be soft and dilated by at least 1-2 centimetres.
A membrane sweep will be offered if you are nearing your due date (38 weeks or more), if you are overdue or in certain circumstances a sweep can be offered earlier.
It is important to know that your midwife or doctor must have your informed consent prior to performing a membrane sweep. It cannot be done as part of a regular internal examination.
A sweep is the most natural method of induction as it does not involve any medication.
Women choose to have membrane sweeps for numerous reasons. In some cases women choose to be induced on a certain date for mental health reasons such as anxiety, others may need to organise childcare for other children and some women may have a history of quick labours and don't live within a short distance of their chosen maternity hospital.
A sweep can be an uncomfortable procedure for many women but it will not harm your baby in the slightest. However, in some cases, women have reported their waters broke during a sweep which resulted in a chemical induction as the sweep failed and did not bring on labour within the 48 hours.
Also if your cervix is angled towards your tailbone the procedure can be extremely uncomfortable or in some cases, sore.
Following a sweep, many women experience mild bleeding and cramping and for most, this is a sign of a successful induction.
Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of kids aged 2, 3, 4 and 8. A self-confessed procrastinator and picker-upper of things, Kellie's love include coffee, doughnuts, travel and sharing every day true to life moments on Instagram of her expanding family. Follow her on Instagram.