Also known as membrane sweep, stretch and sweep is a procedure where a midwife or a doctor tries to insert a finger into the opening of the cervix and then move her finger around, gently but firmly during an internal examination. This action leads to the separation of the membranes of the amniotic sac surrounding the baby from the cervix and this releases hormones or prostaglandins which triggers and may help starting the labour.
This procedure is called stretch and sweep because if it seems impossible to sweep, the procedure where a finger is inserted and so on, the doctor or the midwife may still try to stretch the cervix to try and see whether this action may be enough to start the ripening of the cervix. If the cervix shows signs of it starting to open and soften, the medical expert will then be able to do the sweep on the next internal examination.
After the procedure of membrane sweep is successfully done, the chances of labour to start within 48 hours increases and nothing to worry about, the procedure does not increase the risk of infection for both the mother and the baby. However, when the water bag has broken but the labour hasn’t started yet, the procedure of membrane sweep is not recommended as this may increase the risk of infections.
A membrane sweep or the stretch and sweep may be uncomfortable for the mother due to the cervix being difficult to reach before the labour actually starts. Some also find the procedure painful and opt to not have stretch and sweep performed to them. However, if breathing techniques have been practiced to be ready for labour, this will help in relaxing while the doctor or midwife is carrying on with the sweep procedure. Minimal blood spotting, cramps, or irregular contractions are normal and can be observed immediately afterwards.
Stretch and sweep procedure is offered as a way of trying to bring labour to avoid going too overdue. This is the first procedure a midwife or doctor offers, especially for first-time moms, before offering any other methods of induction to get the labour going.
Being operated or performed on stretch and sweep is always the choice of the patients. Declining the doctor’s suggestion isn’t bad at all as it is the comfort of the patients that will come first. However, there is no guarantee that the labour will start anytime soon without the stretch and sweep. One can always choose to have their labour induction in a more invasive way.