Sweeping and inducing labor

You’re past your due date and you haven’t delivered the baby yet. This is normal and no reason to worry. Officially, births take place between 37 and 42 weeks: 93% of women deliver their child within this period. Your weekly consultations continue as normal. We will plan additional consultations in the 41st and 42nd weeks, both with us and with your gynecologist so that you are examined every other day.

At 41 weeks, if you so desire, it’s possible to induce labor, even without medical indication. You’re only truly overdue after 42 weeks of pregnancy. A gynecologist will start treating you. If nothing indicates birth will commence soon, it’s very possible labor will be induced. During your exams with the gynecologist, induction will be discussed with you. If your labor is induced, you will have to give birth at the hospital.

If the cervix has not ripened at all, a Foley catheter balloon (which is inserted in the cervix and is inflated) or prostaglandin gel will be used to induce labor. If the cervix has ripened a bit more it has dilated (between 2-3 cm), labor can be induced by intentionally breaking your water. After that you can get an IV drip with medication that stimulates contractions. It can still take a while before you deliver the baby. The course of an induction varies greatly in duration. If your cervix is unripe during the internal exam, induction can take several days. If labor is induced by breaking your water, the baby if often born within 24 hours.

For the time being, there’s no need for any of this. Your contractions can start at any moment. However, sometimes we can assist your body by sweeping the membranes. During an internal exam, we will feel if the cervix has ripened and flexible and whether it has dilated. If that is the case, your membranes can be swept.

When sweeping, one of our midwifes will massage and loosen the amniotic sac membranes (without breaking them). A hormone (prostaglandins) is released that encourages the cervix to open and help start labor. Some women experience discomfort during sweeping, but other women don’t feel much at all. By sweeping the membranes accelerates the ripening of the cervix. If sweeping has the desired effect, you will start having contractions within 20 hours. Sweeping is possible from 41 weeks of pregnancy and it can be tried 2-3 times before the 42nd week.