What is Membrane Scanning?

Membrane dissection, also known as membrane peeling, is a procedure that facilitates labor induction. Membrane dissection is sometimes recommended for pregnant women near or past their due date.

During this procedure, your healthcare provider inserts a gloved finger into the cervix to loosen the amniotic sac of the uterus. Membrane dissection can be done in your provider’s office and can speed labor.

This article will describe the process of membrane cleaning, what to expect, and who to avoid.

Induction benefits and risks

The purpose of scanning

The purpose of the scan is to naturally induce labor for people who are on, nearing, or past their due date. Membrane dissection can be used once the cervix has begun to dilate but contractions have not yet begun.

This procedure can induce labor by stimulating uterine contractions.Sweeping the membrane by releasing a prostaglandin. Prostaglandins soften the cervix in preparation for labor.

Scanning is considered a low-risk procedure for most pregnant women. This is helpful because once the pregnancy is past 41 to 42 weeks, the risk increases for both mother and baby.

Risks of long-term pregnancy to the baby

Once pregnant beyond 41 to 42 weeks, risks to the baby include:

  • nutrient deficiencies from the placenta
  • birth injury
  • stillbirth
  • Hypoglycemia
  • premature birth syndrome
  • Breathing problems caused by inhaling meconium
  • decreased amniotic fluid

Long-term pregnancy risks for pregnant women

Possible risks for a pregnant woman with a long-term pregnancy include:

  • longer labor
  • Assisted labor with forceps or vacuum
  • Vaginal birth trauma due to the large size of the baby
  • Cesarean section (C-section)
  • Infect
  • postpartum hemorrhage
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The benefits of sweeping

Membrane sweeping is an optional procedure with possible health benefits. One to two weeks past your due date, your body’s placenta can’t meet your baby’s nutritional needs. Delivery is also more risky for those who are one to two weeks past their due date.

Potential benefits of membrane sweeps include natural induction and avoidance of medial induction.

Does the program work?

Sweeping the membrane is an effective way to induce labor naturally. One study found that people who had their membranes tested had a 2.5-day shorter delivery time than those who didn’t. Membrane sweeps were also associated with reduced need for formal induction.

Procedure flow chart

The scan will begin like a pelvic exam. During an appointment with your healthcare provider, they will explain how membrane peeling works and what to expect. Once you undress from the waist down and go back to the examination table to rest, you will be given a sheet to cover yourself with. Your healthcare provider will then examine your cervix to see if it is dilated. The cervix is ​​the opening of the uterus, and this procedure cannot be performed if the cervix is ​​still closed.

The membrane, also known as the amniotic sac, is the pocket of water in the uterus that surrounds the baby. These membranes hold the amniotic fluid, which protects the baby from harm during pregnancy. To dissect your membranes, your provider will insert one or two gloved fingers into your vagina and then into your cervix. Using small circular motions, your provider will loosen the amniotic sac on the uterine wall.

Membrane dissection is often described as uncomfortable and even mildly painful. The process is relatively quick though. After your appointment, you may experience uterine cramps and spotting. If you notice bright red bleeding soaking your pads, seek emergency care right away. If the scan is successful, you may start feeling contractions within the first three days of your appointment.

How safe is membrane cleaning?

Membrane dissection is considered low risk for most pregnancies. One study found that removal of the membranes increased the likelihood of a spontaneous delivery and decreased the likelihood of requiring medical induction. Studies have shown that scans do not significantly increase the risk of cesarean delivery, maternal death or serious illness, and neonatal death or serious illness.

Membrane dissection can be done once at the end of pregnancy or once a week. Research shows that 88% of people who have had a membrane scan in the past will do it again in a future pregnancy.

Who shouldn’t have a scan?

For many people, scans are safe towards the end of pregnancy. However, not everyone should take this procedure. People who should not have their membranes removed include:

  • caesarean section required
  • Unsafe vaginal birth
  • have a history of vaginal bleeding
  • Urgent induction required


Membrane dissection, also known as membrane stripping, is a procedure that can help induce labor in pregnant women who are approaching or past their due date. The procedure involves your healthcare provider inserting a gloved finger into the cervix to loosen the amniotic sac of the uterus. This movement can stimulate labor by causing uterine contractions. Membrane sweeps can be performed in your provider’s office and are often described as uncomfortable but relatively quick. The procedure has been found to increase the likelihood of natural labor and reduce the risk of medical induction.

VigorTip words

Once your pregnancy is over, you may feel ready for your new baby. Scanning is safe for most pregnant women and may speed up labor. If you and your healthcare provider decide to try dissection of the membrane to induce labor naturally, be prepared for a brief and uncomfortable procedure. It is normal to have cramps and spots afterward. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe pain or bleeding after surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I have a scan at 39 weeks?

    Membrane dissection can be performed at 39 weeks for many people without complicated pregnancies. Talk to your healthcare provider and ask if this is right for you.

  • Are there any signs of a successful scan?

    The purpose of the scan is to induce labor. After surgery, cramps and spots are normal. If the scan is successful, you may start feeling contractions within three days of your appointment.

  • What are the risks of scanning?

    Membrane dissection is an uncomfortable procedure that can lead to cramping and spotting. Some people find cramps so uncomfortable that they have trouble sleeping. See your doctor right away if you experience heavy bleeding after a smear.