membrane stripping
After stripping the membranes (membrane sweep) most women begin labor within 48 hours.

Every pregnancy is different and the duration between stripping of membranes (membrane sweep) and initiation of labor varies among women. For most women, labor starts within 48 hours after a membrane sweep.

However, there is no guarantee that membranes stripping will kickstart the labor or contractions.

What is membrane stripping?

Membrane stripping is the method of induction of labor. The healthcare provider gently separates the bag of water (amniotic sac) from the wall of the uterus.

The procedure is performed once your cervix has begun to dilate. It helps the body release chemicals called prostaglandins, which soften the cervix and prepare the body for labor.

Stripping membranes is an optional procedure to other methods of labor induction. Your doctor may suggest it as you near or pass your due date but contractions have not started and your cervix is partially open or dilated. It is usually performed during a vaginal exam at around 39 to 40 weeks in pregnancy.

Membrane stripping may be done at a time or once weekly. If early induction of labor is very important, your doctor may see you every two days in the office and strip your membranes each time.

What are the benefits of stripping membranes?

Stripping the membranes offers the benefits of going into labor naturally and avoiding a medical induction, which involves medications.

Most people want to meet their baby after 39 weeks of pregnancy. Stripping membranes can be a good option for these people if they are medically fit to undergo the procedure.

Does stripping membranes make labor more painful?

Stripping membranes does not make the labor more painful. The procedure can cause you discomfort or mild pain and slight bleeding. The pain is due to the release of prostaglandins, which is normal.

If the procedure works on you, contractions begin within a few hours. You may feel them for up to 24 hours. Spotting mixed with mucus may be experienced for up to three days.

How do you know if stripping the membranes has worked?

Your doctor will tell you about the positive signs to look for after stripping membranes, such as:

  • Contractions become stronger and more regular
  • Loss of mucus plug
  • Breaking of waters
  • Increase in the dilatation of the cervix

Are there any risks with stripping membranes?

Membrane sweeping is generally safe, but some risks include:

  • Cramping for 24 hours, which may make it hard for you to sleep
  • Cramps confused for contractions
  • Water-breaking with some of its risks, such as infections
  • Heavy bleeding

What are the reasons for avoiding stripping membranes?

Your doctor may not recommend stripping membranes under the following conditions:

  • If vaginal delivery is unsafe
  • If you had unexplained vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy
  • If there is a need for urgent induction through medications
  • Your vaginal culture reveals group B strep in your vagina

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Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Medscape. Stripping Membranes. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2009;54(3):259-260. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/703499