San Francisco Doula Bay Area Blog

Informed Consent and the Membrane Sweep

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It is every woman’s right to have autonomy over her body and her baby at all times during pregnancy, labor, and the birth process. It is shocking how often women have this basic human right, informed consent, taken away from them by their care providers. One particular procedure that is often done without informed consent is the membrane sweep. I’ve heard countless stories of women going in for routine cervical exams and their providers performing membrane sweeps. Here’s what you need to know about membrane sweeps and informed consent.

A membrane sweep is when your OBGYN or midwife puts a finger inside your vagina and reaches the cervix. He/She makes a circular, or sweeping, movement with her fingers. The point of it is to separate the sac surrounding your baby from the cervix. This can stimulate the production of prostaglandin, which is a hormone that prepares your cervix for labor. It’s often suggested as a more “natural” method of induction, however, there are still risks.

A few things you should know about membrane sweeps:

  • A membrane sweep isn’t natural

  • It can lead to further interventions

  • It can be painful

  • Increase Risk Of Infection And PROM

  • It doesn’t always work

  • Your Consent is Required

What is Informed Consent?

A process where your care provider is legally obligated to discuss the risks and benefits of any procedure or treatment.

The information you should receive:

  • A diagnosis and description of the situation

  • Recommended treatment or procedure

  • Risks and benefits of this course of action

  • Any alternatives available and the risks/benefits

  • The risks and benefits of refusing treatment

Unless your provider covered all of this with you prior to the treatment or procedure, it is not considered informed consent.

The best way to make sure you receive the best care is by choosing the best birth team and birthing location. Do not be afraid to switch your provider if you’re not getting what you want or you feel like you’re not being heard. The hassle is worth it. Remember that you’re a consumer and your providers work for you. What happens in your pregnancy, labor, and birth can have a huge impact on you, your baby, and how you parent. My body. My birth. My Decision. Demand Informed Consent.

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