What is stripping membranes (membrane sweep)
Stripping membranes, or a membrane sweep, is a technique used for inducing labor in an overdue or high-risk pregnancy by manually separating the lower part of the amniotic sac from the uterus so contractions may start.
Why do you need to get you membranes stripped
In most cases, a stretch and sweep of membranes is offered to women going past the 41st or 42nd week of their pregnancy, as the placenta may fall short in delivering enough oxygen and nutrients to the baby after this stage. This can increase the risk of stillbirth, unless the baby is delivered as soon as possible. It may also be used for inducing contractions in case of any complication where carrying the pregnancy past the due date poses a risk to the mother and/or the baby.
The procedure is contraindicated if your waters have already broken or if you have any vaginal infection.[4, 5]
How is a membrane stripping done to induce labor
A membrane sweep is an internal, yet simple, procedure often carried out at your doctor’s office and may be done during a routine pelvic exam. It involves your doctor or midwife putting her finger into your cervix and gently moving it in a circular manner to try and separate the outer membrane of the amniotic fluid bag from the uterine wall.
Does a membrane sweep hurt
According to some women, a membrane stripping does not hurt much, while others report it to be a short, but rather painful procedure.
How does stripping the membranes work
Once the membranes are successfully separated, it leads to the release of prostaglandin hormones, which then prepares the uterus for contractions while softening the cervix. As a result, it can help the cervix to open, increasing the chance of labor starting within the next 48 hours.[5, 7]
What happens after a membrane sweep
It is common to have light bleeding, along with an increased in mucus discharge and mild to moderate cramping. Nausea and lower back pain have been reported as well. Some women may even have a bloody show, losing the mucus plug in preparation for labor and birth within a few hours or days following the procedure. It may also cause mild to intense contractions which may or may not eventually lead to labor.
Make sure to contact your doctor in case of excessive bleeding and/or severe pain.
Are there any risks and complications of stripping membranes
Although experts have different opinions about the safety and effectiveness of this induction method, there is no evidence of a membrane sweep to be associated with any neonatal/maternal infections, premature rupture of membranes, or increased chances of a c-section.[4, 8]
Membrane sweep success rate: how effective is it
Studies show women with a membrane strip have 24% chance of delivering their baby within 48 hours and 46% will delivery within a week. It further shows a 74% decrease in the chances of a pregnancy continuing for more than two weeks over the due date. Stripping membranes have a better success rate when performed after the cervix has started softening in preparation for labor.
If it does not work at the first attempt, your doctor may recommend repeating the procedure. It is recommended to keep a minimum gap of 48 hours between two attempts.
Can you strip your own membranes at home
Although many women consider self-stripping their membranes, it is never advisable to attempt one. It is a potentially dangerous medical procedure with a number of associated risks and complications, including life-threatening infections. So, doing it yourself or asking someone else to do it at home can be harmful to you and your baby.
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