Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bad Birth Feng Shui = "Stripping Membranes"

Bad Birth Feng Shui = "Stripping Membranes"

feng· shui
The Chinese practice of choosing and arranging work and living spaces to promote balance, comfort, etc., as in locating building sites or placing furniture.

For the sake of this entry today, "Birth Feng Shui" refers to choosing and maternity care practices and strategies to promote balance, the flow of positive energy, normalcy and health in the birth process.
Today I have taken excerpts from a handout I found, and added my own comments, in parenthesis. here we go :

"Stripping" membranes, is a (barbaric, medieval) method used to try to start labor. The health care provider sticks her or his finger into the cervix -- the mouth of the uterus -- and uses the finger to separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix. It is done (often without your prior consent) in the office during a regular pelvic exam. (which is an excellent reason to avoid them like the plague until 42 weeks )

Hormones are released when the bag of water is separated from the uterus. These hormones may (or may not) soften the cervix and prepare the uterus to contract. It may (or may not) start contractions and help the cervix open. (or it may hurt like H-E- Double Hockey Sticks and do little else)

Your health care provider may "strip" your membranes if he or she feels that continuing the pregnancy is dangerous for your health or your infant's health. Sometimes membrane "stripping" is done to prevent you from going past 42 weeks of pregnancy.

Your health care provider may offer (or may commence to do it without offering) to "strip" your membranes one time. Or your provider may offer to "strip" your membranes every week when you come into the office. If it is very important that you start labor, your health care provider may see you every 2 days in the office and "strip" your membranes each time. (Oh GOODY.)

Having your membranes stripped will not put you into labor right away. It may not put you into labor at all. If you do have your membranes "stripped," expect to be uncomfortable and slightly crampy during the procedure. You might feel mild cramps or contractions for up to 24 hours after your membranes have been "stripped." (or you might feel horrible mind-splitting pain and become so exhausted that you can't cope with normal labor) You may also have slight spotting for up to 3 days after your membranes are "stripped." This bleeding can be reddish, pink, or brown and may be mixed with mucus. (are we having fun yet?)

If you have severe pain or bright red bleeding that soaks through a pad in an hour or is running down your leg, call your health care provider right away. (OK, so you may have been "stripping my membranes" every 2 days, and this happens and I am supposed to call YOU to help me?)


  • The cramping that may occur in the 24 hours after your membranes are "stripped" can make it hard to rest or sleep; this means that you might lose some sleep before actually going into labor. ( BAD fung shui for normal birth !)
  • Some people worry that membrane "stripping" may cause the bag of water to break or cause mothers or babies to become sick.

       How well does "stripping" work ?

Membrane "stripping" is done because some studies (but not all ) show that labor may start sooner if membranes are "stripped" than if membranes are not "stripped." This is especially true if a woman is already 41 weeks pregnant.

You may want to be "stripped" if ?

  • You are sick and your health care provider says it would be safer for you to have your infant now.
  • Your infant is sick and your health care provider says it would be safer if your infant was born now.
  • You are 42 weeks pregnant.
  • You are almost 42 weeks pregnant and you are planning to have your infant at a birth center or at home where you will not be allowed to labor after 42 weeks of pregnancy.

You may not want to be "stripped" if ?

  • You have been told that it is not safe to have your infant vaginally. (Then why the H%$# would you be "stripping me anyway ?)
  • You have had unexplained vaginal bleeding during your pregnancy.
  • You have been told that you need to have your infant urgently and that it would be safest to have your labor induced by using medications. ( I am not sure what is behind this sense of "urgency", I need more information, please )
  • You want to let your pregnancy and labor unfold naturally and there is no medical reason to have your labor induced. (BINGO!)
  • If you have had a vaginal culture that says you have group B strep, or GBS in your vagina, you may not want to have your membranes stripped; there are no studies that have shown stripping membranes is harmful if you have GBS in your vagina and no studies that have shown it is safe if you have GBS in your vagina, so this is a decision you should make with your provider. (WHAAAAT???? So, basically, it's a crap shoot ?)

Other considerations...

  • Sometimes, at the end of pregnancy, it seems the pregnancy will never end -- we can all become impatient and wish we could make labor begin; membrane stripping may cause you to lose sleep and be uncomfortable in the days before your labor starts -- the best way to get ready for your infant and for labor is to remain as rested as possible. (DUH ! So, why are you torturing me ?)
  • Most women deliver their babies by 41 weeks of pregnancy. Fewer than 3 of 100 women will go past 42 weeks of pregnancy. Membrane stripping to prevent going past 42 weeks of pregnancy is not usually needed. (Yeah, that's because most women are induced by 40 weeks !)
To read more about a Randomized Controlled Trial which shows more of the disadvantages of this practice see the Science and Sensibility blog at


  1. LOL!!! Oh I needed that one... I had a good laugh with your remarks

  2. Wendy, sometimes you just gotta laugh to keep from crying !