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What is a membrane sweep?

A sweep involves a midwife or doctor inserting their finger into your vagina and ‘sweeping’ it in a circle around your cervix. This idea is that this sweeping motion will separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix, releasing labour-triggering hormones.

Many women are offered cervical or membrane sweeps as a way to bring on labour. If you’re pregnant for the first time, you may well be offered a sweep at 40 weeks. For subsequent pregnancies, you’re more likely to be offered a sweep at 41 weeks.

A sweep is completely safe for baby. However, if your waters are already broken, you will not be offered a sweep as this could cause infection. Instead, you’ll be offered a ‘wait and see’ approach or induction of labour.

You don’t have to have a membrane sweep if you don’t want one. If you’re not sure, ask your midwife or doctor to discuss the benefits and risks with you. That way, you can make a decision that feels right for you.

Membrane sweeps are certainly not guaranteed to bring on labour - in fact, the evidence is not super conclusive on this one. Most women find sweeps uncomfortable and sometimes a little painful, and they may bleed a little. However, many women feel that it is worth a go!