Stripping Membranes

Membrane Stripping is a process that many pregnant women have heard about sometime or other in their lives. Read on to know what it is, how it is performed and what its side effects are.

What are Stripping Membranes?

It is a medical procedure that is also known as “Membrane Stripping” or “Membrane Sweep”. It is a simple process that is carried out by medical practitioners while performing a vaginal exam to start labor.

How Is Stripping Membranes Done To Induce Labor?

The process involves separating the amniotic membranes from the uterine wall. This is done by sliding a gloved finger through the opening of the cervix. Stripping the membranes is considered to release prostaglandins, which can help to start labor. The health care provider moves the finger in a circular fashion in the region surrounding the inner section of the cervix to separate the membranes.

In the UK and Australia, the midwife inserts her finger around the cervical opening to perform an internal examination. This is done to arouse or divide the membranes around the infant from the cervix and prompt a secretion of prostaglandin that acts similar to a hormone.

This process is frequently carried out among pregnant women. Medical practitioners who divide the membranes during the last few weeks of the pregnancy of their patients report earlier deliveries on an average than patients who do not opt for this process.

Stripping Membranes during pregnancy seems like an intense vaginal exam. It can only be performed if the cervical opening is wide enough to admit a finger.

Stripping Membranes at 38 Weeks

Medical practitioners should ideally perform this process every week, beginning at 38 weeks, to accelerate the date of delivery. Stripping the membranes may lower the period of the pregnancy and lessen the chances of continuance of the gestation period for more than 41 weeks.

The process is done to start labor and also to stop continuing the pregnancy if maternity is found to be dangerous for the health of the mother as well as the infant. The method is sometimes executed to prevent a woman from going over 42 weeks of gestation. Pregnancy after 42 weeks can be highly risky for the health of the child. This is because enough oxygen or food may not be provided to the infant by the placenta when pregnancy continues for more than 42 weeks.

Stripping of the Membranes Side Effects

Side effects of this process may involve irregular contractions, cramping and temporary bleeding in the cervix. This process should not enhance the risk of having an infection. This is not similar to busting the bag of water, in which the amniotic sac is collapsed to increase labor.

There is a common belief that this process is harmful to the fetus as well as the pregnant woman. This is, however, a misconception. Membrane stripping is neither harmful for the mother nor the fetus. Another popular misconception is that this procedure may lead to rupture of the bag of water and lead to sickness of both mothers and their babies. Studies have shown that division of this membrane does not make them more likely.

Stripping Membranes Cramping

Cramping is common after stripping of the membranes is done. This often occurs in the pelvic region. Pregnant women often suffer from cramps during and after the medical procedure. The cramping sensations can be acute for women who are having their pregnancy for the first time. These may continue for an entire day after the process has been performed.

These sensations may make it hard to repose or get some sleep for almost 24 hours after the membranes have been separated. A pregnant woman may actually lose some sleep prior to delivery due to this process.

Can Stripping Membranes Lead To Bleeding?

The process may lead to a minor amount of bleeding (also known as Spotting) for about 3 days after it has been executed. The blood released due to this process may be brown, reddish or pink in color and may be mixed with mucus.

Why Is Stripping Membranes Done?

The procedure is typically performed due to any of these three conditions.

  • When a pregnant woman is sick but the healthcare provider insists that it would be safer to have a child at that period.
  • When the unborn infant is sick and the doctor advices that it is safe to give birth to the infant immediately.
  • The woman is in the 42nd week of pregnancy.

When Is Membrane Stripping Not Done?

This process is unsafe to be performed when

  • It is not considered safe to have delivery of the infant through the vagina.
  • There is inexplicable bleeding from the vagina during the pregnancy.
  • It is urgent to have the delivery of the infant immediately and it is safest to have your labor induced by using medications.
  • The would-be mother wants to let her pregnancy and labor develop naturally and no medical factor is there to induce labor.
  • The pregnant woman has had a vaginal culture that reports of Group B Strep (GBS) in the vagina. Having GBS in the vagina can make it unsafe for a pregnant woman to continue with stripping of membranes. It may cause risk to the pregnancy as well as the health of the woman.
  • Doctors find that the progression of labor is normal.
  • The due date is far away. Carrying out membrane stripping too early is not going to have an effect.

Does Stripping Membranes Work?

Membrane stripping can work very well. It can separate the bag of water from the uterus leading to a release of prostaglandin. Prostaglandin can make the cervix soft and prepare the uterus for contraction. This may initiate contractions and help opening of the cervix.

Doctors always make it a point to inform mothers before carrying out this process due to the risks and discomforts involved with it. When performed in time and by experienced healthcare providers, this process can be safely carried out.

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