There are a few methods through which labor can be induced naturally, out of which membrane stripping (also referred to as membrane sweeping) is used frequently by healthcare professionals for labor induction. In membrane stripping, the fine membrane present between the uterus and amniotic sac is separated with the help of a finger (introduced via mouth of uterus or cervix). Strippingmembranes to induce labor should ideally be performed by a trained midwife or physician under aseptic conditions to minimize the risk of complications.

The Procedures of Stripping Membranes to Induce Labor

During an internal examination the doctor or midwife inserts the finger via mouth of uterus and gently moves the finger around to separate the amniotic layer. This action of separating layers induces the release of prostaglandins, which helps in inducing the labor and child birth.

Membrane sweep is also known as stretch and sweep because in case the sweep is not possible, the doctor or midwife can apply a mild stretching action on the cervix by gentle massaging to serve the same purpose. Massaging the cervix helps in softening the tissues so that the sweeping action can be performed more easily.

When Is It Suggested?

Membrane stripping is recommended when the female has completed her 40 weeks of pregnancy. Other indications of striping membrane to induce labor are:

  • When the female is experiencing some medical condition such as pre-eclampsia,gestational diabetes, symphysis pubic dysfunction.
  • The weight of baby is less than the expected weight.
  • If the female is pregnant with multiple gestations.

Does Stripping Membranes to Induce Labor Work?

The membrane stripping is usually performed at 39th-40th week of pregnancy; there is no guarantee that membrane stripping will always result in labor induction. In some females it does not work and several procedures may be needed, in which case they can always opt for other methods to induce labor.

The estimated time duration after which the labor usually initiates is approximately 48 hours. The process of labor may occur early if the cervix is already soft and dilated. On the other hand, if your cervix if not soft or you are not dilated enough, labor may not begin at all. In case the water is broken but the contractions have not started, the membrane sweep should not be attempted as it increases the risk of developing cervical and uterine infections.

After-Effects of Membrane Stripping

The procedure is uncomfortable for most of the females; this is because the cervix may not be soft enough, so inserting the finger can cause discomfort or pain. Breathing exercises should be efficiently utilized to relieve the pain during sweep which is also recommended during labor. Along with pain, some other symptoms such as mild spotting, contractions and cramps after the procedure are also common. If the female is already having contractions, she may barely feel the pain of stripping membranes to induce labor.

Pros and Cons of Membrane Stripping for Inducing Labor

Pros of membrane stripping :

  • The method can be performed by a midwife or doctor at home or hospital.
  • It is a natural method for induction of labor
  • It reduces the chances for more aggressive interventions for the delivery of the child (such as vacuum delivery, use of forceps or surgical delivery).

Cons of membrane stripping:

  • The process is uncomfortable for most of females.
  • The risk of contracting cervical infection after membrane is stripped increases several folds.
  • Trained midwife should perform the procedure with care; the condition may become critical if performed by non-professional and untrained personnel.

What Other Moms Have Experienced:

Stripping membranes to induce labor have been experienced by many women. Here’s what they have to share:

“This membrane stripping has totally worked for me, I had this done when I was 39 weeks pregnant with cervix dilated at 2cm. I felt slightly uncomfortable when the membrane was stripped. The membrane was stripped on Thursday noon and soon after I left the clinic, the contractions were started. Water broke the next day and I gave birth to my baby boy within 24 hours of membrane sweep.”

“I was expecting with my fourth child, every time I had my membrane stripped when my cervix started ripening, I think if the cervix hasn’t started ripening then this thing won’t work. If it does work out then the contractions will start in maximum 24 to 48 hours.”

“I had it done with my last child, my membrane was stripped at 39 weeks and soon after that, my contractions were started. By the end of the day, I gave birth to my daughter. On the other hand one of my friends had her membrane stripped several times during her pregnancy but nothing came out.”

“I am 38 weeks pregnant and 4cm dilated, my doctor stripped my membrane as I was feeling uncomfortable. The pain and bleeding was more than I expected. Soon after the procedure, irregular contractions were started (which were 5 to 10 minutes apart). But then these contractions abruptly stopped and nothing happened. It was a disappointment for me”.

Other Ways to Induce Labor

Besides stripping membranes to induce labor, the doctor may try other ways to induce labor based on your actual situation:

1.       Hormones

Prostaglandins are prescribed for opening and dilating the mouth of cervix. It also triggers the contractions that are required for labor. If the female has a history of previous C-section, then prostaglandins are not advised as forceful uterine contractions may lead to the rupture of the uterine lining.

2.       Mechanical Dilation

Balloon catheterization is performed in which a thin tube is inserted in cervix through vagina. At the end of the tube, a balloon is attached which can be inflated using water so that the cervix can be artificially expanded.

3.       Medications

Medications containing oxytocin (Pitocin) is given to initiate the contractions. Oxytocin is inserted through IV tube. Initially small doses are inserted which are then gradually increased according to the physicians order. The dose is increased until the contractions start to complete the course of delivery.

Of course, there are many things that you can do by yourself to induce labor. HERE are useful tricks.