Stretch and Sweep – Everything you need to know

Stretch and Sweep – Everything you need to know

Stretch and Sweep everything you need to knowToward the end of pregnancy, you can be offered stretch and sweep as a way to start your labour without medication (remember a full-term pregnancy is anywhere between 37-42 weeks). But what exactly is it? What is involved? What are the pros and cons?

What is Stretch and Sweep? 

Stretch and sweep can also be known as membrane sweeping. It is a type of intervention in which a midwife or doctor insert their fingers into your cervix and perform a sweeping motion. The intention behind this process is to stimulate the release of the hormone known as prostaglandins which is a hormone known to help prepare the cervix for labour. 

What is involved?

The process typically takes about 10 minutes firstly, your doctor or midwife will perform a cervical examination to determine if your cervix is open, once it is determined that your cervix is open with sterilised gloves the doctor or midwife will insert their finger and “stretch” the cervix and “sweep” between the amniotic sac and cervix. 

What are the benefits?
  • It is more of a “natural” way of inducing labour compared to medication, although stretch and sweep is still considered intervention.
  • It is a quick procedure.
  • It can be repeated after 48 hours if there is no progress. 
  • Reduces the percentage of women who deliver their baby past full-term. (Remember a full-term pregnancy is anywhere from 37 – 42 weeks) 
What are the cons?
  • The procedures can be quite uncomfortable, even painful. 
  • Premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) leads to increase risk of infection.
  • Once rupture of membranes occurs it is a race against time for some women due to hospital policy.
  • If you have the procedure done and it didn’t induce your labour it can be disheartening for the birthing mother and the birthing mother can feel as though her body has failed her.
  • Stretch and sweep can send you into false labour. Through this procedure, hormonal change might occur which can cause some cramping and spotting.

Dr. Sara Wickham goes more in-depth about the benefits and risks of stretch and sweep. You can click here to read her research. 

Does stretch and sweep actually work?

There is not enough reliable evidence to determine whether stretch and sweep actually works or not. 

Is stretch and sweep right for you?

Remember to keep in mind that you have the right to refuse any procedure. In our Hypnobirthing Australia Positive Birth Program we teach you questioning and decision-making techniques so you can make informed decisions when interventions are suggested. One technique many hypnobirthing parents find helpful is the B.R.A.I.N technique. 

B – Benefits: What are the benefits for baby and mother?

R – Risks: What are the risks for baby and mother?

A – Alternatives: Are there any alternative options?

I – Instincts: What are my instincts telling me (based on knowledge – not fear)?

N – Nothing: What if we do nothing? Is it an option to wait?

If you find yourself getting well past your ‘estimated’ due date (remember that a normal pregnancy is considered to be anywhere between 37-42 weeks), There are some natural ways you can help encourage labour to start, click here to read about the natural ways in encourage labour to start. 

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