Whilst pregnant, I did a lot of reading online about what would happen during the process of removing the baby from my womb and introducing him into the world. Admittedly this led to a lot of Google searches leading me to forums. Mumsnet, Netmums, BabyCentre you know, all of the places where completely normal people dish out medical advice to other mums who are petrified of what’s about to happen (you can read about other daft myths we heard in our previous post here). You try and take it with a pinch of salt, but there are certain trends that you simply can’t ignore. This one in particular spilled out into people I’d actually met, namely the ladies of our antenatal classes. As their due dates came and went, comments on Facebook were made about “the sweep” and how they had been offered it (and in most cases, they refused it) and how awful the idea of it was.
I, being a bit oblivious, didn’t really know the ins and outs of what it was… as far as I was aware, it was just an examination… a bit like a smear test. Not exactly a comfortable experience, but it was hardly traumatic.
That was the attitude I carried on with, despite everyone saying that it was awfully painful and horrendous and it didn’t do anything. So when my midwife offered to perform the sweep at 40 weeks and 5 days (July 31st if you’re wanting a date) then I was happy to go for it. If it might help the little man come sooner, I was definitely all for it.
Any midwife, whether they are listened to or not, will tell you that there is no guarantee that the baby will come any quicker as the result of a sweep, but in some cases it can get the process moving. If you are expecting labour to hit you as soon as you leave her office, then you will be sorely disappointed. This is what I think the forum mums got wrong, claiming the entire procedure is useless. It isn’t, but it isn’t a surefire way to bring about labour.
The sweep itself is uncomfortable. Depending on how you’re carrying your baby I imagine hugely impacts the level of actual pain you feel. For me it was more than bearable but every pregnant woman is different. My cervix was ‘very favourable’ and I was a tiny bit dilated, so I imagine that I was a prime candidate for the sweep to make a difference. No matter how painful your sweep might be however, think big picture terms and what you’re due to go through. The sweep will be nothing in comparison to that.
There’s also other reasons why a sweep is a good idea. It can give your midwife a good indication as to whether things are likely to happen on their own, or whether you’re going to be induced. It also lets her make sure that everything is okay and nothing abnormal (she could feel Mason’s head when she did mine, so at least we knew he was in the right place!) So even if it doesn’t bring your baby any sooner, it at least can give you and your healthcare professionals an indication of what might happen and help you all plan for it. Get your other half’s boss on standby for an induction date (or that the baby is imminent!) and let friends and family know what the score is. They will all want to visit, so they’ll appreciate the update.
My experience of the sweep was really positive, not least because my active labour started about 48 hours after I’d had the sweep, but I noticed changes straight off the bat with very mild ‘period’ type pains starting that night. Whether it brought him any earlier, I obviously don’t know but he arrived less than 3 full days after seeing the midwife.
If you’re expecting and have read all of the horror stories about the sweep, my advice is to ignore everything that you have read and go in with a completely open mind. You have absolutely nothing to lose and if you’re getting impatient with your impending arrival, it may just be the catalyst they need to make their long awaited appearance.
What other horror stories did you read up on whilst you were pregnant? Or did you do the decent thing and avoid the internet for nine months? I sure wish I did!