Sweeping debate

At my last prenatal appointment I was offered a cervical sweep – also known as a membrane sweep, membrane stripping or, as some people at my clinic disturbingly refer to it, “rimming” – which…I…I just can’t understand why they would use a word with such a broadly used  (and giggle-able) sexual connotation. If you don’t know what I mean, Google “rimming” and see what comes up – I guarantee you, the first few pages of Google results have absolutely nothing to do with labour induction.

Moving along. With a sweep, your doctor puts their finger inside the cervix and sweeps it around to separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from your cervix and release hormones (prostaglandins), which may kick-start your labour by encouraging your cervix to “ripen” (honestly, these words, *shudder*). It can increase your chances of delivering within 48 hours by 24% and your chances of delivering within a week by 46%.

Since it was only my 38 week appointment, I was totally caught off guard by the offer, having thought it was a procedure you tried once you had reached your due date – at least. But no, at my clinic they routinely offer it starting at 38 weeks. There’s no harm in refusing, since they offer it at every appointment after that, and you can really ask for it any time you want it, up to the point of spontaneous labour or a medical induction.

So I refused. Partly because I wasn’t mentally prepared for an internal exam that day and partly because it just felt too early – I still had another 3 days at work for chrissakes. Plus, the procedure itself can be uncomfortable or even painful and can cause cramping, spotting and discomfort afterwards.

Arriving back at work, I promptly sent out a work-inappropriate email to a few moms in my office and fired off a couple texts to see if anybody could weigh in with their recommendations. Responses were mixed. A few had refused the sweep, for a few it had never come up (e.g. they went into labour early) a few had it and felt it was “no big deal” and a few said things like “fucking painful” and “worse than labour”. The best I can figure about the painfulness is, it depends on how ready your cervix is to begin with. If you’ve already started to soften and dilate a cm or two, it is bound to be less uncomfortable than if you’re still tightly closed up. I think it also depends how sick and tired you are of pregnancy. I may get to a point where I’ll do anything to get things moving, but I’m just not desperate yet.

A big pro is that it is a natural method of getting your labour moving, which can reduce your chances of going over your due date and requiring a chemical induction – which by all accounts is something you want to avoid if at all possible. So once you hit your due date, it’s definitely something to consider.

I’m currently 8 days away from my due date and 3 days away from my next appointment – where I will have another chance to say yay or nay to the sweep. Right now, I’m tempted to just let it ride and see if things won’t start on their own. I feel like she’ll come when she’s good and ready. But in your last few weeks of pregnancy, three days is an eternity and I change my mind at least three times a day about how much discomfort I’m in, so there’s really no telling where my head will be at by Tuesday.



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