What is a membrane sweep?

What to expect from a membrane sweep

Membrane Sweep

If you’re a few days overdue, you may be offered a membrane sweep – a natural way to try and bring on that labour. Here we bring you the lowdown on this quick and easy procedure – what happens, how it works and success rates too.

What is a membrane sweep?

If you’re a few days overdue, you may want to try a membrane sweep. Also known as a ‘cervical sweep’, this quick, drug-free procedure can help you go into labour naturally and reduce the chances of a medical induction.

What are the success rates?

A membrane sweep reduces the chance of a pregnancy progressing beyond 41 weeks by about half. If it doesn't do the trick you can book another sweep, or think about booking a date for induction.

Where’s it done?

It’s usually done wherever you normally see your midwife, so you might not have to trek to a hospital.

What’s the procedure?

It feels like an internal examination, with the midwife gently putting a finger inside your vagina and reaching the cervix. She then makes a firm circular, or sweeping, movement with her fingers to try and separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix. The sweep can also trigger the release of the natural hormones (prostaglandins) that stimulate contractions.

What are the downsides?

You might find a membrane sweep a bit uncomfortable and have some vaginal bleeding afterwards.

Is a membrane sweep for you?

Only about 5 per cent of babies actually arrive on their due date, so if you’re only slightly overdue there’s no point rushing into anything. You might want to try a few natural ways of bringing on labour – from eating pineapple and curry, to nipple stimulation and even sex. But if things start dragging on, a sweep is certainly an easy, natural way of getting labour going. 

What is a membrane sweep?