pregnant women membrane sweep

Membrane sweep – the easy labor starter, or not?

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Stripping the membrane

Many pregnant women – myself included – are getting restless towards the end of the pregnancy.

You just finally want that baby out.

With the baby getting bigger every day there is no room anymore and you are probably getting uncomfortable.

I tried every “trick” to get into labor…but nothing worked.

There is one method that seems to help a few women to actually go into labor – the membrane sweep.

According to studies about 90% of women receiving a membrane sweep go into labor by 41 weeks compared to 75% of all women that did not get one.

So there is a pretty good chance it works for you.

Stripping the membrane is also said to reduce labor duration.

membrane sweep natural labor induction

What is a membrane sweep?

A membrane sweep or cervical sweep is a drug free, natural way to try and induce labor.

Once you are around 38 – 40 weeks pregnant your doctor may offer you to perform a membrane sweep or you can ask yourself.

It is known to bring on labor naturally but it is no guarantee and you may get no effect out of it.

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How is a membrane sweep done?

A membrane sweep is basically a internal exam.

During this procedure the doctor will enter your cervix with their finger and sweep around the inside in a circular motion.

Doing so is supposed to separate the ammonium sac from the uterus and bring on labor naturally.

Depending on how much you are dilated (if any) this procedure can range from just a little uncomfortable to painful.

After the procedure you will most likely experience some light bleeding and if you are lucky might go into actual labor.

If this doesn’t work the first time you can ask for a additional sweep – but it is still not guaranteed to bring on labor.

There is a small chance of 1 in 10 that your water breaks so keep that in mind and maybe bring your hospital bag with you if you already know you will get the sweep – just in case.

If the water breaks but you do not go into labor you may be giving additional medication to force labor to start which can lead to longer and more painful contractions.

Most woman start going into labor withing 48 hours of the performed membrane sweep if it works.

pregnant women third trimester

Can I do a membrane sweep myself at home?

Just like any other medical procedure you should NOT try to perform a membrane sweep yourself.

Not only can you bring bacteria inside your uterus with your finger and cause infection but you could also accidentally poke the ammonium sac which could cause your water to break.

How often is it really sucessfull?

According to studies a membrane sweep give you a 24% higher chance of going into labor withing 48 hours and a 46% higher chance to go into labor within a week compared to not getting one.

Pro and Con of getting a membrane sweep


Can start labor naturally

You will see your baby soon if it works

24% chance of delivery the within 48 hours

46% chance of delivery within a week


Low chance of breaking the water

Can be painful if you’re not dilated

May not work at all

Low chance of infection

If you are unsure if you should be getting the membrane sweep – don’t be afraid and ask your doctor all the questions you may have.

This is a procedure that is completely up to you and does not have to be done.

When my doctor asked me if he should strip the membrane I had no idea what that even means so he explained it to me.

I thought why not?

Worst case it doesn’t do anything and best case I would have my baby soon.

Personal experiences

I asked a few moms that had the membrane stripped about their experience and here is what they said:

I personally had a membrane sweep on my due date and after a few hours of very light contractions they just completely stopped again and I didn’t have my baby for another 8 days. So I did not have success with it. – Linda

I had a membrane sweep with both of my babies and they both came soon after.  With my first the contractions started the next day and he was born early in the morning the following day.  With my second my water broke during it so my daughter was born the next day! I’ll be getting it done with my third child as well. – Ashley

birth baby after membrane sweep

I’m honestly embarrassed to admit it, but I did have a membrane sweep done on my DUE DATE with my first babe. The doc said that if baby didn’t come by my due date, I needed a membrane sweep, happened to have my ‘monthly appointment’ on my due date, and he insisted on a sweep. It was uncomfortable but an underwhelming 60 seconds ? and did nothing, baby came 5 days later on her own haha. I don’t recommend it. – Cate

I had my membranes swept about two days before my due date with my second child. The midwife offered to do it because I had family in town to help with my older child that week and they were leaving soon. It was definitely uncomfortable but not painful. The midwife told me if my body was ready it would put me into labor in the next day or two. And I went into labor about 48 hours after getting them swept so I think it helped my body get going. My baby girl was born on her due date and extended family were around to watch my older child, so it all worked out! – Emilia

I did have a membrane sweep with my daughter (my second child) at 39 weeks. I went in for my weekly check at 39 weeks on the dot and was already close to 3 cm dilated. At the time I was not having any contractions. I had tested negative for strep B. My OB asked if I would like her to sweep my membranes to help naturally induce labor. I said yes!

She performed the sweep. I thought it was pretty painless. Just a little pressure. I did have a small amount of bloody discharge afterwards. I went home and went for a long walk, bounced on a Swiss ball, and went to bed without any active labor and was convinced it didn’t work. However the next morning I woke up with gradually increasing contractions. Fast forward a few hours and my beautiful baby girl was born! – Monica

Let me know if you had one and it worked for you in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Membrane sweep – the easy labor starter, or not?”

  1. Had my membrane sweep on Thursday. Was bleeding Thursday afternoon by Friday morning it was brown and minimal. Lost my mucus plug around 6pm Friday. It’s Saturday morning and now I have pink tinged (possible bloody show?) still irregular contractions but no baby yet. I feel like crying.

    1. Aww it’s so annoying when it doesn’t do anything or not the full effect we hope for – I feel you on that :/ I hope you had a great and easy delivery by now!

  2. This was actually pretty interesting because I’ve never heard of a membrane sweep. It actually doesn’t seem as bad as the name sounds. I’m pretty sure if I ever had kids and I had to go past my due date that I would get this done. Thanks for teaching me something new!

    1. I never knew what it was either until I was in that situation where my doctor asked me 🙂 It is pretty cool tho if it works 🙂

    2. I was 39 weeks and 2 days gone when I had my membrane sweep, it was a little uncomfortable but was less than a minute. Less than 5 hours later, I started having serious back pain and contractions. My son was born early hours of the next morning which was about 10 hours after the sweeping. I will definitely go for it again if I don’t fall into labour till 39 weeks

  3. I’m pretty sure I was cringing the entire time I read this! haha. I don’t think I would do this, but I don’t know for sure. Jolene came 6 weeks early, so it was never even an option for me. Who knows what I will do with my next?

    I could imagine that if I made it that far, I’d be willing to give it a try.

    Thank you for educating me!
    xo. Josephine

    1. You are very welcome 🙂 I am glad this post was helpful to you 🙂
      Yeah it has it’s risks but it’s worth a try in my opinion too 🙂

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