A stretch and sweep, sometimes just called a sweep, is a form of induction. The vital thing to remember here is that even if you are told that you’re being booked for a sweep, only you get to decide whether this happens or not. You choose who, if anyone, gets to put their fingers inside your vagina and you also have the right to say no! A vaginal examination is a very personal procedure, it is your choice.
The aim of the sweep is for the midwife or obstetrician to reach into the neck of your cervix (your cervix is a small tube, that is closed with a gel inside to protect your baby). If your midwife is able to place her fingers into the tube and feel for the membranes, then they will be able to do the sweep. If your cervix is closed and they are unable to reach inside the cervix, then they will not be able to do a sweep.
If you have not given birth before, your cervix will be fully closed before it becomes softer around term, if you have had a baby before it is more likely that it will be a little open, however will still have the fantastic protective jelly, to protect your baby.
The reason that a sweep is offered, is because it’s thought to help encourage hormones that will encourage more tightening’s. However, your body has probably been doing this very well by itself. It takes days and even weeks for the muscles in your womb to get ready for labour to start. This is a positive thing, even if it doesn’t always feel like it! Your baby will give the signal for labour to start when it’s ready!
If a sweep does work, your body and baby will very likely have been ready, so the sweep probably just tipped the balance of hormones!
If you decide to have a sweep and it seems not to be working, try not to be too disappointed, it means your baby and your womb have a little more preparing to do first. Be nice to yourself and do things that make you feel happy till you are both ready.
You may feel that you are unsure about saying yes or no. If so you can tell your midwife that you’ll wait a few more days, or let them know that this is something that you do not want to have. You can always change your mind at any time.