So you may be wondering what is a membrane sweep? Women may be offered a sweep when they come close to the end of their pregnancy to help speed things along if their baby is overdue or if there are any health concerns. It is completely the woman’s choice if she decides to have one or not.
What does a membrane sweep feel like?
Most websites will tell you a membrane sweep may cause discomfort or even pain. Some women say it’s extremely uncomfortable. Others say it’s very painful and some lucky women barely felt it. Everyone is different and I suppose it depends on each individual.
What happens during a membrane sweep?
Your midwife will ask you to remove your bottoms. They will provide you a large sheet of paper to cover yourself with. You’ll then lay down on the bed and your midwife will tell you which position to put your legs in. She’ll then give you an internal examination and sweep her finger around your cervix. The procedure doesn’t take long at all.
What happens after a membrane sweep?
It’s possible that you will bleed after. Anything from light spotting to a heavier bleed is normal. Make sure you bring a sanitary towel with you to wear afterwards.
My personal experience
From doing lots of reading up on it before the procedure, I was obviously expecting it to be rather unpleasant. Still, I was confident I would be able to grin and bear it.
I can honestly say it was probably the most traumatic and painful experience of my life. I’m very accident-prone and have had several injuries so far in my lifetime, including severe burns and a dislocated shoulder. However, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the sweep. It was a hundred times worse than what I was expecting. I really could have cried and thought I was going to at one point. I also was sweating buckets because I was so distressed and felt extremely hot and nauseous and was close to being sick.
At one point where the pain really was excruciating and my face had scrunched up so much I thought I was going to scream. My midwife said that’s your cervix to the bit she was touching. Considering it’s only a finger that is used during the procedure I’m so surprised that it hurt that much. It honestly felt like she had her whole hand up there and maybe a saucepan or very large spoon.
My midwife (bless her) was so sweet and kept asking if I wanted her to stop and was trying to relax me the whole time and encouraging me to breathe. The whole process couldn’t have lasted longer than 4 minutes, bearing in mind she paused in the middle so I could relax for a moment. It felt a lot longer though as things do when you’re uncomfortable. The baby was moving around a lot during the procedure as well and it made my stomach really hurt. My partner was also there at the time which was reassuring. As soon as the midwife said she was finished I don’t think I’d ever felt more relieved.
She asked if had a pad with me which I didn’t, only a panty liner. So she gave me a large sanitary towel to wear. She said I had bled slightly and part of my mucus plug had come away. The rest would follow on later. After I dressed up, she checked baby’s heartbeat again to make sure everything was okay. The baby should come out faster after that procedure considering we had just tickled his head. The heartbeat was slightly quicker and he was kicking like mad, which isn’t surprising. He’s been inside all this time and probably wondering why on earth his head has just been touched.
I wanted to share my story because although I really don’t want to put anyone off, I want you to be prepared. I’ve probably scared you half to death and if I have then I really do apologise. Remember that everyone is different. If you are having a membrane sweep then you could have a completely different experience to mine so keep this in mind.
Everyone brushed it off and told me it didn’t hurt at all. So I completely panicked as I was having mine and thought something was seriously wrong. If I could have known that it was going to hurt and be uncomfortable then I would have been able to prepare beforehand.
Some ways you can prepare are:
- Take some painkillers beforehand – check with your midwife what is appropriate for you
- Bring a pad/sanitary towel to use after as it’s likely that you’ll bleed slightly
- Practise a breathing technique. During the procedure, you can concentrate on your breathing and try to keep calm
When it’s over and you’ve gone through the experience of labour, believe me when I tell you that everything you went through during your pregnancy won’t matter to you in the slightest.
Good luck! x