Prior to formal induction of labour, when women are 41 plus weeks pregnant, it is recommended that all women be offered a membrane sweep to assess the readiness of the cervix (neck of womb) for labour 1. It may also help stimulate labour as it has been shown to increase the possibility of labour occurring naturally within the following 48 hours 1.
A membrane sweep involves an internal vaginal examination by your Midwife or Doctor. They will place a finger just inside your cervix and, making a circular sweeping movement, will attempt to separate the membranes from the cervix 1. This will stimulate the release of hormones that may start contractions. It will be uncomfortable but should not cause actual pain; you may also experience a mucus/bloodstained ‘show’ like a discharge, following this, which is quite normal.
1NICE guidelines (National Institute for Clinical Excellence). Induction of labour. June 2001.