What Is a Sweep in Pregnancy?

If you are pregnant and are close to your due date or if you happen to be overdue and haven't gone into labor yet, your obstetrician or midwife might attempt to do a cervical sweep. What is a sweep in pregnancy? This is sometimes called a "stretch and sweep" and it is a technique that may be able to put you into labor. If you have never had this done before, read this article so that you know more about the sweep in pregnancy.

What Is a Sweep in Pregnancy?

A sweep in pregnancy is a technique that can bring on natural labor. It is a way of helping the progress of your pregnancy when you are overdue. This is usually the first thing the obstetrician or midwife will do because it will increase the odds that the infant will be born within 2 days, reducing the need to have more aggressive therapy such as getting prostaglandin gel to induce labor or having an artificial rupture of your membranes.

What to Expect During a Sweep in Pregnancy

As you have known "What is a sweep in pregnancy?" you may want to know the detailed process of it. The doctor puts on latex gloves and lubricates them. Then they will insert their fingers into the vagina and through the opening in the cervix, which is the bottom portion of the uterus. Using a circular motion, the doctor will attempt to separate the amniotic sac from the cervical tissue itself. This causes a release of the hormone known as prostaglandin, which stimulates the uterus to contract and put you into labor.

After the procedure is over with, these are some things you might notice:

  • Vaginal discomfort
  • Some increase in contractions
  • Slight spotting
  • Cramps in your abdomen
  • Irregular contractions of the uterus

It is okay to take acetaminophen or paracetamol after the procedure, or take a nice warm bath if you are feeling pain. If it has ruptured your membranes or if the pain intensifies or if you have a large amount of bleeding, call your obstetrician or midwife and prepare to go to the hospital. If the procedure doesn't work the first time, the doctor can repeat it in a few days' time.

The procedure isn't usually very comfortable, but you shouldn't feel any real pain. Instead, it will feel like a rough vaginal examination or a Pap test. If you happen to be in labor, you probably wouldn't notice any discomfort at all, but because you probably are not in labor yet, it will be noticeable. Try practicing relaxation techniques or breathing techniques so that the discomfort will be less.

How Effective Is a Sweep in Pregnancy?

Now that you know "what is a sweep in pregnancy" you may want to know if it really works. According to statistics, there is about a 24 percent chance of success when the procedure is performed. Labor is likely to start within about two days. Many women will have their baby within a week after having a sweep done in the doctor's office. If you do not go into labor within 36 hours, the doctor can repeat the procedure.

Some doctors will do this procedure on everyone from 38 week's gestation, even though it is not considered a necessary procedure and does carry some risk to the fetus. If the procedure doesn't bring on spontaneous labor, the doctor may proceed and do an artificial rupture of membranes or possibly start a Pitocin drip to get your labor going.

When Will a Sweep in Pregnancy Be Needed?

You have known "What is a sweep in pregnancy" but when should you need one? Generally, if you are considered full term in your pregnancy, which means you have reached a full 40 weeks, it is a good time to do a cervical sweep. It is not a good idea to be too overdue in your pregnancy as there can be complications. For this reason, your obstetrician or midwife will likely do this procedure when you are at 40th week of pregnancy. The procedure will be repeated when you are 41 weeks pregnant. If you have had a baby before, a sweep will likely be performed at around 41 weeks.

There are other reasons why you might need to have a cervical sweep. These include:

  • You are suffering from a medical condition, including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, or problems with your pubic symphysis, so your doctor may want you to have your baby before its scheduled due date.
  • You fetus is not growing the way it should be; the doctor may feel it is better to have the baby out with such procedure.
  • You are having twins and a vaginal delivery is available, then your doctor may do a cervical sweep at 37 weeks pregnant.

Are There Any Risks of Having a Sweep in Pregnancy?

There are some risks to having a cervical sweep. The most serious one is that the bag of waters can accidentally be broken. If that happens, you have 24 hours to labor before having the baby is infected. Women who are positive for Group B strep should especially be wary about having a cervical sweep, because the procedure could cause the bacteria to pass into the amniotic sac through intact amniotic membranes. Up to 25 percent of women are Group B strep positive and because there are no symptoms, many women do not know they have it.