Stripping Membranes: Can it Cause a Long Labor?

When I was two days past my due date, my doctor stripped my cervix without really explaining what he was doing. I went into labor later that evening and had a long and difficult 31-hour labor -- staying at two to three centimters dilation most of the time. Do you think stripping the membranes caused this long labor?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

The same thing happened to me with my first baby. Since then, I have always wondered if this put me into a long latent phase and my instincts say "yes."

Stripping the membranes is a time-honored way of inducing labor. It only works if the cervix is ripe and the baby is ready. The thought is that if you stimulate the cervix, you stimulate production of prostaglandin, which starts uterine contractions.

The midwife or doctor introduces a finger into the cervix and separates the fetal membranes away from the cervix. It is probably not so much the separation, as the cervical stimulation, that starts the uterus contracting. It often causes bleeding and can be very painful.

To my knowledge, there are no controlled studies linking length of labor to this procedure. I do agree with your suspicions, and because of this have not performed this procedure on many clients unless they were very dilated and multiparous.

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