The unborn one is now five days overdue, and the possibility of undergoing a sweep is becoming more and more likely.


A cervical or membrane sweep is the first step of inducing pregnancy. It is considered a natural method, as no drugs are involved. What happens is the midwife manually “sweeps” the cervix, attempting to stimulate the production of the hormone prostaglandin which triggers the onset of labour. The idea is that the cervix starts to separate from the amniotic sac. If the sweep is successful, labour can begin within 24-48 hours!

So what is the sweep going to be like (if it turns out I do need to have one – there is still a couple of days to go before my 41-week appointment)? Netmums describes it as follows: “we’d be lying if we said it was entirely comfortable, but it shouldn’t be actually painful. It will feel more like having an internal or a cervical smear.” OK, I can just about cope with that. But what about afterwards? “It’s quite normal to feel some abdominal pain after a sweep and to have some minor bleeding.” Ah well – whatever is best for the baby… and I’m sure actual labour will rapidly put any prior abdominal pain into the shade!

The benefits of having a sweep – as opposed to going straight to an induction – seem to be many. At our NCT class the teacher explained at length the disadvantages and general badness of inductions: you have to take dreaded “fake” hormones, it’s invasive, labour is apparently more painful, and it is more likely you’ll need assistance (i.e. forceps or ventouse). Whereas the only negative side effect a sweep seems to have is the chance your waters might be broken accidentally, in which case the NICE medical guidelines say you need to start labour within 96 hours to avoid a risk of infection… so induction may need to happen anyway.

According to my midwife, only 1 in 8 sweeps are successful. You can try having one again a couple of days later, but if that doesn’t work either, induction here I come! Although it doesn’t sound very nice, the risks to the baby increase the more overdue you get. I just may need to rethink my birth plan somewhat (suddenly an epidural sounds very appealing…)

Of course, our baby may just decide to pop out anyway before any of that happens!

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