Photo by AFisher
Relax -- there is no actual broom involved (but isn't this photo cute?!)
Having your OB or midwife sweep your membranes -- aka stripping the membranes -- is a procedure that often happens late in pregnancy as an attempt to bring on labor. JenLavazza asked about it recently in Pregnancy, and I noticed a couple of women who responded didn't know what it was.
Here's some basic info.
Stripping or sweeping the membranes is a natural way to bring on labor -- no drugs are involved, so it's something you might try before a formal induction. Your doc places a gloved finger through the cervix and literally "sweeps" (or separates) the amniotic membranes from the lower part of the uterine cavity. The procedure releases hormones called prostaglandins which can help kick-start your labor.
Sounds like good times, huh? Some women say the procedure is painful and some experience cramping -- I can tell you that, for me, it was extremely uncomfortable (and I've noted a few other moms around here felt the same). But every woman's experience is different. It didn't work for me, but it does send many women into labor in the next 48 hours or so. Expect some spotting after.
If you're approaching your due date or if you've passed it, ask your health provider if sweeping the membranes is in the cards for you.
And enlighten other mommies if you've had it done -- did it hurt? Did it send you into labor?