Membrane sweeping / striping is done at the end of pregnancy during a vaginal exam. It is used to stimulate the cervix and help to induce labor. Membrane sweeping is just as it sounds, during a vaginal exam your provider will insert their finger into your cervix and “sweep” around the cervix attempting to separate your amniotic sac from the uterine lining. Your cervix must be slightly dilated in order to do this.
Most doctors will ask permission before doing this, but there are providers who consider it “routine” during a vaginal exam and will not inform the patient prior.
Membrane sweeping produces prostaglandins which may also help induce labor.
“Sweeping of the membranes, performed as a general policy in women at term, was associated with reduced duration of pregnancy and reduced frequency of pregnancy continuing beyond 41 weeks” (Boulvain, Stan, Irion. 2005).
“Most of the women who underwent membrane sweeping entered spontaneous labor [than those who did not] (90 vs. 75%)” (Zamzami, Al Senani. 2014)
Simple, low cost, and quick procedure.
Can induce labor.
Can decrease length of pregnancy when done after 41 weeks. This can help prevent a full on medical induction.
Can decrease length of labor.
Cannot be done if the cervix is closed, must be around 1 cm dilated.
Many women report that membrane sweeping is painful. It can cause slight bleeding afterwards.
There is a SMALL risk for rupture of membranes, or for your water to break, during a membrane sweep.
Boulvain M, Stan C, Irion O. Membrane sweeping for induction of labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;2005(1):CD000451. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000451.pub2. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Feb 27;2:CD000451. PMID: 15674873; PMCID: PMC7032890
ZAMZAMI, T., AL SENANI, N.. The Efficacy of Membrane Sweeping at Term and Effect on the Duration of Pregnancy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Gynecology and Obstetrics, North America, 3, feb. 2014. Available at: <https://www.jcgo.org/index.php/jcgo/article/view/225>. Date accessed: 04 Feb. 2021.