Stripping membranes

The Midwifery Today Forums are up and running again after a year’s lull.  Many lively discussions happen on that site so check it out and start participating.  This a.m., a young woman asks if she should allow her physician to “sweep her membranes” at 37 weeks gestational age. (Sometimes I think that people just want to get my blood boiling first thing in the a.m. and so they post questions like this that will inflame me!  It is all about me, isn’t it?)

Here’s my response to the question:

Could we please go back to describing this procedure in language more accurately, it’s a stripping of the membranes.  This whole, positive-thinking, “sweeping” nonsense is a euphemism that dumbs us down to the damage of this aggressive behaviour. 

If you took a healthy young man and reefed around on his foreskin until you made it bleed, he would call the police and charge you with assault.  Our young women need to do the same thing when practitioners “strip” their membranes.

9 thoughts on “Stripping membranes

  1. BWAHAHAHA! How about if they said “I’m going to create such incredible irritation in this membrane your body has been carefully protecting that you’ll probably go into premature labor, all to suit my schedule.”

    nah. that’d be truth in advertising.

  2. you would think, hearing the procedure described, a woman’s legs would clamp shut and she would run screaming from the room! but so often i hear women say they’re having this procedure done like it’s no big deal.

    i wanna know what the hell these ‘care’ providers are actually saying to these women to make them believe that ripping a cohesive membrane away from the wall of their uterus in an effort to throw the body and the uterine ecosystem into a shock that has the potential to send the woman into preterm labor is a good idea. what about that scenario sounds good, exactly? i don’t get it.

  3. You rock. Have I mentioned that you rock lately Gloria?! And thanks for replying, I often sneak away from conversations like those because I risk raising my perfectly healthy low blood pressure 😉

  4. The other part of this digital penetration that is often glossed over is: THIS IS INDUCTION. Wasn’t I only reading the other day on a mw’s blog that she was so pleased with herself for helping a woman avoid induction by reefing the membranes away from their proper spot thus causing the birth process to begin? WTF? Inducing does not *avoid* induction, people, it’s just induction and it all results in a premature baby. Sure sign of a term baby is a baby coming out a vagina [insert usual disclaimers around premature birth which doesn’t involve induciont].

  5. I didn’t even know WHAT my “midwife” did when she checked me at the clinic. I had been having a lot of contractions for about two weeks. Then she checked me and said, “you’re only about 2 cm. dilated right now, but you should have him tonight”. I had NO idea what she meant. During another pregnancy, I asked another midwife what that was all about, and she said that she must have stripped my membranes. HOW can they do that AND with absolutely NO concern for what I wanted? I remember, I had even told her that I just wanted to get to November, because I didn’t want to have him on Halloween. Well, he was NOT born that night; but the next morning, Halloween morning, and 10 days early. If I had known more then, I would have sued that hospital for several of their stupidities.

  6. What are these ‘care’ providers doing with their fingers in the vaginas of pregnant woman prior to term and labour anyway? As a midwife I don’t find any need to go poking around inside a woman. There are many women who can go through pregnancy, labour and birth with no examinations.

  7. I flew into town at the end of my sister’s first pregnancy to help her with the birth and with the baby afterwards since she was still in school. I went with her to her prenatal at just over 37 weeks and the doctor checked her and *THEN* said that he stripped her membranes, did not ask, did not explain what he was doing beforehand at all. All I could do was stand there with my jaw dropped and eyes wide open. What has happened to informed consent, or ANY consent for that matter?! I was pregnant with DS2 at the time and planning my UC and went through with no VEs, and will have no VEs this pregnancy either. She went on into labor that night and had an unmedicated birth the next morning and baby was 5 lbs something, but luckily healthy. I just couldn’t believe it all.

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