Inducing labour: is membrane stripping effective?

Posted on July 9th, 2019

Some babies are just all too happy to stay in the womb and need a little nudge into the big wide world. Membrane stripping is one method to get labour going. Registered midwife Pippa Hime shares her thoughts.

Membrane stripping | Stretch and sweep to induce labour

You get to 40 weeks pregnant and are feeling extremely uncomfortable. It seems as though your little one may never come. You may have tried some of the old wives methods to induce labour. A long walk, a hot curry or even sex, but baby is staying put. Your doctor may suggest membrane stripping, also known as a stretch and sweep.

ALSO SEE: Inducing labour naturally

What is membrane stripping?

Membrane stripping is when your doctor will use his or her gloved hands to perform an internal examination. The doctor will insert their fingers into the cervix moving them in a circular motion. The foetal sac, or membrane, is then gently “sweeped” or lifted off the cervix. The cervix itself is then stretched.

How does membrane stripping help to induce labour?

The procedure helps to stimulate the release of prostaglandins, a hormone found in the body, which gets labour started by softening the cervix. The cervix needs to ripen and soften in order to dilate. Prostaglandins helps with this. The stretching of the cervix also helps to encourage the ripening and dilating of the mouth of the womb.

When and where is this procedure done?

It’s performed during your routine check-up with the doctor or midwife between 38 and 40 weeks into pregnancy and it’s done in the doctor’s rooms or clinic. The whole procedure doesn’t take long. It’s not usually painful as such, but can feel very uncomfortable. All you need to do is hop on the examination bed and try to stay calm and relaxed. Your doctor or midwife will only do a membrane sweep all conditions are now favourable for delivery. There’s no special preparation for this procedure.

What can I expect afterwards?

There is a strong likelihood that following a stretch and sweep, labour will follow within 24 to 48 hours. It does, however, largely depend on just how ready or favourable your cervix is. As the cervix itself is highly vascular and the mucus plug within the cervix may be dislodged, you can experience a mucus blood-stained discharge. You may start to feel mild contractions as labour starts.

ALSO SEE: 5 types of vaginal discharge during pregnancy

Is a stretch and sweep safe?

A membrane strip or stretch and sweep is a safe option to try and induce labour as a first line before resorting to any other methods of induction. It can be uncomfortable to painful, but is over quite quickly and can be effective for a mom whose body needs a gentle push in the right direction. It can also be repeated several times leading up to labour if need be.


About Pippa Hime

Pippa is a Registered Professional Nurse and trained as a Registered Midwife at Chris Hani Baragwanth Hospital. She has extensive experience in all things baby related with a special interest in preparing couples for the exciting journey of parenthood as well as supporting them in the weeks that follow the birth. She and her husband Richard are the proud parents of Becca age 6 and Tom age 4. Pippa has a comprehensive private clinic service that includes Childbirth Education classes, a Well Baby Clinic including Immunization as well as Post Natal and Lactation support. With over 5 years of running a private clinic facility and raising 2 children Pippa comes with a wealth of knowledge and first-hand experience of parenthood.