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Shall I Have a Membrane Sweep?

Mindful Guide to  a membrane sweep
Membrane Sweep

Shall I have a Membrane Sweep?

A membrane sweep is a common form of intervention that is routinely offered in the UK. The NICE  (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines state that every woman should be offered a membrane sweep at 41 weeks. So it is likely that this will be offered to you around then or an appointment booked in at 40 weeks for your membrane sweep at around 41 weeks.

As far as hypnobirthing is concerned this is an intervention, because the philosophy of hypnobirthing is to do nothing as nature will take its course.  But there are some things to consider before making your decision. Understanding the benefits and the risks fully can help you make a choice as to whether you have one at 41 weeks or earlier, to delay it until you are nearer term at 42 weeks or to decline it. Importantly you do have a choice.

Research shows that women often go into labour within 2-3 days of having a membrane sweep, whether they were about to go into labour anyway is a possibility as women who are given a membrane sweep are expected to birth imminently. The intention of a membrane sweep is to stimulate the release of prostaglandins and oxytocin, both of which can trigger uterine contractions and labour.  Prostaglandins can be found in semen and oxytocin is a hormone associate with sex as well as labour, which is why sex is recommended to get things moving!

What happens during  a membrane sweep?

During a membrane sweep, your midwife will insert a finger into your vagina and feel for your cervix. She’ll then sweep the cervix to separate the membranes from your cervix. It can be very uncomfortable and you may bleed afterwards.

What are the benefits of a membrane sweep?

If you are nearing 42 weeks and under pressure for an induction, or just want to get things moving, a sweep can be a good way of getting things started. It can often prevent the need for other more aggressive pharmacological forms of induction, that are associated with something known as a cascade of intervention.

What are the risks of a membrane sweep?

There is the slight risk that the midwife could accidentally rupture you amniotic sac during a membrane sweep, which then means your labour may be actively managed and if you don’t go into labour after 48 – 72 hours (depending on your hospital policy) you may need to be induced.

There is also the sense of being disheartened if it doesn’t work. There is also some anecdotal evidence that women who have membrane sweeps have slightly more painful labours.

Natural Alternatives.

The aim of a membrane sweep is to trigger the release of prostaglandins and oxytocin, which stimulate contractions. Fortunately there are other ways of doing this that are more fun and much more comfortable!

  •  Sex (semen contains prostaglandins and sex triggers the release of oxytocin)
  • Eating spicy food (releases endorphins and oxytocin)
  • Light touch massage
  • Stand in a warm shower and teak your nipples until milk drips
  • Have a go at reflexology or acupuncture
  • Get your head in the right place, let go of the worry of labour starting in time and it probably will. Our Mp3s can help with that.
  • Take yourself out of your normal environment and go for a long walk
  • Clary sage and lavender baths (consult with a local aromatherapist or research the use of clary sage if this is an option for you)


A membrane sweep  may be better closer to 42 weeks than 41 –  most women are nearing labour at this point and it is more likely to be effective the closer to going into labour you are.

If you are under pressure for an induction it can be a way of compromising and getting things moving without the pressure of further interventions. Unlike pharmacological methods of intervention, it is unlikely to trigger the cascade of intervention that you so often hear of associated with an oxytocin drip.

However, if you are true to the hypnobirthing philosophy, remember that this is essentially a compromise and if you deeply trust your baby and your body to birth when they are ready then you can decline and choose to do nothing.  In this case you will be offered regular monitoring if you go over 42 weeks to check the function of your placenta and levels of amniotic fluid.

Whatever you choose, it’s your choice – make it an informed one.











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You pass your due date and it’s “have you had the baby yet?”.

Due date
Clock watching can slow labour down.

The due date countdown and friends who can’t help asking is the baby is here yet.

by Sophie Fletcher

“Have you had the baby yet?” is a question that you may here more and more as you approach your due date. As much as they love their friends and family this text or call can be one of the biggest irritants to mums-to-be as when they go past their due date.  Ironically, the worst culprits are often other women who, without thinking, feel they are being attentive to their friends and bombard them with texts, saying “just checking that you’re ok”, “oh so you haven’t had the baby yet”.   An acute example is my own mother, who phoned the hospital and was buzzed through by reception to the intercom in my room, during labour, at least twice to ask if I’d had my baby!

Most people automatically send a text round when baby is born; I’ve received numerous texts at 2, 3 or 4 am.  So the rule of thumb is if you haven’t received a text then baby hasn’t arrived into the world yet and if baby is on their way, and mum knows, she’s unlikely to want to text you back or chat to you.

Friends and family should fight the urge to call the mum when she is reaching her due date, she may be at the receiving end of dozens of texts from well meaning people.  At the same time mum-to-be may be under pressure for induction because she’s gone over her due date – the texts or phone calls  may become  a reminder that she’s over her due date and cause even more stress.

You may think, “I’ll switch my phone off” when I get close to my due date.  But the sound of an answer message  can just stir up the excitement even more, because if your phone is switched off everyone who calls assumes that you are in labour.

I know and you may know that you are not at term until you reach 42 weeks, and that the majority of women birth their babies before this date, but very often over their 40 week due date.  Only around 3-4% of babies come on their due date.

We also know that any stress or apprehension can stop labour from starting, as it releases stress hormones that can slow labour down, so it’s incredibly important that mum doesn’t have these reminders everywhere around her due date, and that she is able to go, stress free, into labour when she and her baby are ready.

Tips to help you minimise this disturbance as you approach your due date:

  1. Don’t tell people your due date.  Tell them an approximate time, eg. The end of August, middle of September.
  2. Tell your friends that you will message them straight away when baby is born.
  3. Ask them not to text you, to ask “how you are”, or “if baby has arrived” after your due date but maybe a “I’m nipping to the supermarket, do you want anything” text is fine.
  4. Get some lovely relaxation music to reduce stress after your due date when you may be getting anxious. Try the Mindful Mamma Mp3 on itunes.