What is a stretch and sweep?

A stretch and sweep is an optional way to potentially induce labour. It is considered when it may be more harmful to mum or bub to continue with pregnancy. An example of this is pregnancy that continues past 42 weeks’ gestation.

How is it done?

This form of induction involves a clinician inserting one or two fingers into the dilated cervix and using a continuous circular sweeping motion to free the amniotic sac from the uterus. This procedure cannot be performed if the cervix has not started to dilate.
The separation of the amniotic sac from the uterus helps to speed up labour through the hormonal release of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormones produced by the body that are responsible for the thinning & dilation of your cervix.

A stretch and sweep differs from a formal induction as it does not involve artificial rupture of membranes or drugs that stimulate the uterus such as oxytocin.

Some of the risks associated with a stretch and sweep are

  • Light bleeding after the procedure
  • Cramping /discomfort
  • Waters breaking (rupture of amniotic sac).

It is important to seek advice from your healthcare professional if you are experiencing severe pain or heavy bleeding after a stretch and sweep.

Studies have found that women who underwent a stretch and sweep were more likely to go into spontaneous labour and less likely to require formal induction. These results show us that a stretch and sweep is effective in promoting labour but doesn’t stop the potential for having an assisted birth.

Overall, the research suggests that a stretch and sweep is an optional procedure you can choose to undergo if you are 39-42 weeks pregnant to induce labour. Your cervix may need to be sightly dilated to undergo a stretch and sweep.  If you choose to have this procedure it is likely but not guaranteed that you will enter spontaneous labour without further assistance.