Ever wondered if you should get a stretch and sweep? Holy Snapping Crampola – I had my first stretch and sweep today.
Rubber gloves – check
Lube – check
Fingers up the hoo hoo – Wowzers!
A stretch and sweep (or membrane sweep) is conducted by your obstetrician to encourage labour. It’s usually offered at the 38-week mark and assists in reducing the risk of yourr baby being born past their due date. This is especially important if you are a geriatric (when did 38 become geriatric…. I could write an entire blog on how BS this is, but I digress). As a first-time mum-to-be, having anything that interferes with the natural process of birth causes pause, but given I cant wait to have my little guy anything that will increase the chance of having him on time is welcomed. I have been eating chili, upping acupuncture (although according to my obstetrician is not proven to do anything) and just willing my baby out.
How does a stretch and sweep work?
Your obstetrician will insert one/two gloved fingers through the cervical canal and moves them in a sweeping motion to separate the membrane from the cervix and encourage the cervix to open. It’s important to keep your bottom down and breathe through the process. The “sweeping’ process releases prostaglandins, a chemical that helps soften and opens the cervix delivery. According to my obstetrician, the likelihood of going into labour at 38 weeks after one stretch and sweep is about 25% and it usually takes three attempts to do the trick. Makes sense why she likes to start them at 38 weeks.
The experience is uncomfortable and feels like strong period pain. I think the main challenge I had was not knowing what to expect but now I feel more comfortable and prepared if I have another one. For my stretch and sweep my obstertrician could only insert one finger. Technically I only had a sweep (as two fingers are required for a stretch) but it’s a good start.
Why would I get a stretch and sweep? Isn’t it better to wait?
Obviously whether you have a stretch and sweep is entirely up to you and you have the right to say yes or no. A primary reason to have a stretch and sweep is because it’s a drug and equipment free way to encourage labour and, as a result, can reduce the need for medical intervention (AKA being induced). Because it releases natural chemicals in the body it also reduces some of the risks associated with synthetic oxytocin or prostaglandin gels. Each stretch and sweep have a cumulative effect and as a result it is advised to start at 38 weeks when the bub is fully cooked.
How effective is a stretch and sweep?
According to my obstetrician the effectiveness of a stretch and sweep is dependent upon the stage of where you are in your pregnancy.
While researching the stretch and sweep I found the following stats:
- A study from 2014 involving 190 women found membrane sweeps at 38 weeks reduced total gestation time.
- 90% of those who had stretch and sweeps went into labour compared to 75% who didn’t have a sweep
- Of the stretch and sweep group, only 10% went past 41 weeks compared to 25% in the non-sweep group
- A study involving 800 women, found a reduction in the time between induction and labour and an increase in vaginal birth rates (with a reduction in synthetic oxytocin)
- A study from the Netherlands showed serial sweeping from 41 weeks decreased the risk of post-term pregnancy. The women were randomly assigned to have their membranes swept every 48 hours until labour commenced up to 42 weeks of gestation and the control group had no intervention. The sweep group had 23% of pregnancies go to 42 weeks compared to 41% of the non-sweep group.
What makes a successful stretch and sweep?
Firstly, your cervix needs to be open. If your body isn’t ready for labour your cervix won’t be in position or open to have the procedure done. If this is the case, your obstetrician may just massage the cervix (who doesn’t love a massage?). Secondly, you need to be ready. It’s important to relax (as best you can) and breathe. I feel a whole lot more confident now that I know what the procedure is and will focus on relaxing for the next one.
Does it hurt?
Depends on your pain threshold. I would liken it to strong period pain. It was more uncomfortable than anything else. I experienced further cramping that evening (going for a beach walk immediately after may not have been the best plan) but overall, nothing to whinge about (but it did get me out of cooking for the evening). It’s also normal to have some light spotting after.
Would I do it again?
Absolutely. I am a fan of anything that is going to naturally assist in bringing on labour! I want to meet this little guy already (and I want to do all I can to prevent medical (read drug) interference intervention)
Would love to know your story? Have you had a stretch and sweep? Did it help accelerate things for you?
Update: exactly 12 hours after my sweep my waters broke. Yep!! I’m having a baby!!!!