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  • Writer's pictureKirstie Broughton

What is a cervical sweep and should I have one?

When will I have a sweep?

Before birth you may be offered a ‘membrane sweep’, also known as a ‘cervical sweep’, to induce labour. Typically offered from 40 weeks pregnant. 

It’s important to know that you can decline this intervention if that’s what you’d prefer. Your consent must be granted before anyone has the right to carry out this procedure, or any other for that matter of fact. This is a form of labour induction.

What happens during a sweep?

It starts like an internal examination and usually takes less than 10 minutes. The midwife/consultant puts a gloved finger into your cervix, if your cervix is open they can perform the sweep. They will make circular or sweeping movements with their fingers. A sweep can be uncomfortable and cause some light bleeding, some people find it more uncomfortable than others. Remember that you can always ask to stop the procedure at any point. 

What’s the reason for a membrane sweep?

When the practitioner moves their fingers around your cervix they are trying to separate the amniotic sac surrounding your baby from the lower part of the uterus. They hope this separation will trigger the release of a hormone called prostaglandins, which can help to start labour. If the procedure is effective then you may start to feel contractions in your uterus. 

The hope is that labour will begin within 48 hours of the procedure. If not then you can choose to have the sweep repeated a few days later.  If there is still no change you may be offered other forms of induction, which you can of course decline, spend some time considering or say yes. 

There are risks and a sweep is still a form of intervention, it’s also not suitable for everyone, so always consider your options, take time to think and weigh up the pros and cons. Always ask questions and feel comfortable with the decision beforehand.

I’m going to be writing more blogs on induction. It’s something I’m asked about incredibly often, pros, cons, what actually happens, obstetric risk and whether it’s really necessary. I’m also in the process of writing blogs on the Bishops sore and how to tell if you’re in established labour without a vaginal exam. Please do look out for these. 

To take a look at the services I offer as a birth and postnatal doula or pregnancy yoga teacher please take a look at my website I’m also really active on social media, to follow me on Instagram and Facebook please see @breathebirthyoga . You’ll see lots of doula and maternity news, lots of yoga tasters and informative posts on a daily basis

Have a great day xx


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