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What is a membrane sweep?

Membrane Sweep FAQs

What is a membrane sweep?

A membrane sweep is also known as stripping the membranes, stretch and sweep or as the Hamilton manoeuvre in medical terminology, this is a technique used for pregnant women who have not started labour, to attempt to start it in an artificial way, before practising other induction techniques.

What does a membrane sweep consist of?

Your physician or midwife will try to insert a finger into the entrance of your cervix, between the amniotic membranes and the uterus. Then, gently but in a firm way, he will move the finger in a circular way trying to separate these two structures. If done correctly, this technique will release prostaglandins, which are the hormones capable of start the labour process.

Does a membrane sweep always kick-start labour?

A membrane sweep should increase the chances that labour will start in the next 48 hours. If your cervix is already developing the changes associated with oncoming labour (softening and dilation), the chances become higher. The outcome of this technique may vary from woman to woman, needing just one or more than one sweep, or passing directly to induction methods.

In what cases is a membrane sweep recommended?

  • If you are overdue with more than 40 to 41 weeks pregnant – this decision depends on the protocol of where you are based
  • If you have an underlying medical condition like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pelvic-fetus disproportion, etc., putting at risk either you and/or your baby
  • If your baby´s growth is not as expected
  • If you have a multifetal pregnancy.

Is a membrane sweep obligatory?

No, it is not in most places. If you want to and as long is it safe, you can refuse to have a membrane sweep and wait for the labour to start naturally or go straight to induction. It is normally your choice. Either way, talk to your physician or midwife for recommendations.

Does a membrane sweep hurt?

Some women find this technique painful. Due to the anatomic status of the structures involved, the membrane sweep can be uncomfortable. If you have practised some relaxation techniques, it is recommended to do so during the procedure.

What happens after a membrane sweep?

You may notice some bleeding, abdominal pains or irregular contractions after it. If nothing happens in the next days, your physician or midwife will discuss with you the possibility to have another sweep and keep trying this procedure or go straight to induction methods.


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What Our Patients Say

Gráinne Macken

This is my second visit to Merrion Fetal, I was very pleased on both occasions. Lovely quiet waiting room, appointment was on time. The 20-week scan is very detailed we enjoyed watching our baby on the large TV screen. We got some beautiful photos. The nurse was very pleasant and talked us through all the measurements and anatomy. I would highly recommend this scanning clinic.”

Áine Gibney

I had the best experience at the Merrion Fetal Health clinic for my 20-week big scan. The staff were so friendly and so nice and the lovely lady who did my ultrasound scan was amazing. She was so thoroughgoing to absolutely everything and gave me such reassurance on how my baby was growing and developing. I would recommend any Mother to be to attend here if you are looking for a comfortable, reassuring and super pleasant experience.”

Linda O'Sullivan

Highly recommend! We had an early scan due to a little scare at the start of pregnancy and then another at 12 weeks to make sure all was good again. Helen who was scanning on both days was fantastic. We felt totally relaxed and un-rushed while she took her time finding the best angle of baby to get us the clearest pictures as keepsakes all while making sure everything was perfect with baby. She reassured us throughout and I can honestly say it was the best money we ever spent getting both scans done.

Please let Helen know we are 18 weeks now and flying along Highly recommend!



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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.