Stretch and Sweep

stretch sweep blog

Stretch and sweeps are something that your midwife or Doctor may suggest at some point during your third trimester. It is a method to stimulate labour to begin, or done during in labour to help aid in dilation.

How it is performed?

During an internal pelvic exam, your health care provider will insert one or two fingers into the cervix. They will massage the cervix and separate the membranes of the amniotic sac from the inside of the cervix.

What to expect

This procedure can be quite uncomfortable. Focusing on slow breathing and using other relaxation techniques during the exam can help to reduce discomfort. You may have some spotting after the procedure, so wearing a panty liner is a good idea. It is normal to feel some cramping afterwards. This cramping may or may not continue into active labour.

When to do it?

Some health care providers will offer to do a stretch and sweep a couple of weeks before your due date and other providers don’t offer them unless you ask. In our experience we find that stretch and sweeps are the most effective the later you are in your pregnancy. This allows the body to do a lot of the preparation on its own and the stretch and sweep just helps nudge you into labour.

If the cervix is still closed, your doctor or midwife will not be able to perform the procedure. This is also a sign that your body still needs time to get ready on its own.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

  • Can get the labour process going
  • Is less invasive than an induction scheduled at the hospital

What are the drawbacks of this procedure?

  • Can be an uncomfortable experience
  • Causes cramping
  • Can cause a very uncomfortable early labour
  • Causes spotting
  • Is not guaranteed to work

What are some alternatives to this procedure?

  • Acupuncture can be used a couple of weeks in advance of the due date to help the body prepare for labour.
  • Give your body more time. If you do not have a medical induction scheduled, you can ask your medical provider to hold off for a little while.
  • Talk to a Naturopathic Doctor about homeopathic options.
  • Have fun. Try to enjoy the last bit of time you have before birth. Things will get very busy once baby arrives. Use this time to connect and spend time with your partner, get a massage, go for walks, cuddle, sleep, read or do anything else you really enjoy. Usually when moms distract themselves from trying to go into labour, the body relaxes and labour begins.