Let’s talk about The Sweep for a minute. No, not the one that covers up baldness on the top of a shiny noggin!
I’m referring to a common procedure that you will be offered by your OB-GYN at 38 weeks of pregnancy (if not before). I know, you might be thinking ‘impressive Amy, are you psychic?’ and although I have certain other superpowers, what I am speaking about here is fact.
So let’s get into it....
The sweep is a non medical way that aims to help kick start the process of labour. Once done, it can take a few days to really have an effect if anything at all. A sweep can feel very painful and invasive but that’s not always the case.
What is the procedure?
The doctor will insert a finger into the opening of the cervix and using a circular motion ‘sweep’ to break the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix. This sweeping action can release the hormone prostaglandin which helps to soften and thin the cervix and encourages labour to start.
What will happen after?
You may experience abdominal discomfort, cramping, light bleeding, mild to strong pain and/or irregular contractions as a result of the sweep. If not effective the first time the procedure may be repeated at a later date. It’s important to note that post sweep discomfort is not labour but can potentially become labour.
Am I obligated?
No, you are not obligated to have a sweep. It is perfectly acceptable to say no and allow your body to go into labour spontaneously. However if you are birthing with an OB, as you get closer to 41 weeks you may want to consider it as a natural option when trying to avoid medical induction. If you have aMidwife as your care provider she may offer this to you if you are coming up to or beyond 42 weeks.
What is the evidence on the sweep?
Evidence Based Birth wrote a great article on this.
Some final thoughts (take ‘em or leave ‘em…)
Labour is a complex physiological process that does not happen due to just one procedure. If your body and baby have already started to coordinate the onset of labour (which is a chemical reaction produced by the baby's lungs), a sweep or any other kind of unmedicated intervention is more likely to help expedite the process.
So a sweep at 40 weeks may be more effective than at 39 weeks, but with first time pregnancies it can be more useful closer to 41 weeks as estimated due dates are only correct 3-5% of the time (in non IVF pregnancies).
Did you have a sweep done and did it help start later?
Leave us a comment below!