Routine Membrane Stripping
Starting at about the 38 week visit mark, your health care provider is probably going to recommend "stripping your membrane". Stripping your membrane is a method of attempting to prevent a woman's pregnancy from lasting over 42 weeks. Post-date pregnancies (over 42 weeks) occur in about 10% of uncomplicated women.
Post-date pregnancies have a higher incidence of induction of labor, operative delivery, post-partum hemorrhage and shoulder dystocia. Routine membrane stripping, in low-risk pregnant women with accurate dating criteria, has been proposed as a method of encouraging earlier delivery to prevent post-dates pregnancy.
Membrane stripping lessens the incidence of post-dates pregnancies and the need for medical inductions. A well-done meta-analysis of randomized trials found no harm regarding neonatal morbidity/mortality if women undergo routine weekly "membrane stripping" beginning at 38 weeks' gestation. No "serious maternal morbidity/mortality," cesarean-sections, instrumental delivery rates, or maternal infection was found. Pregnant women in the stripping group were less likely to have a post-partum hemorrhage, although concern about applying this result is warranted.
How they strip the membranes
Your health care provider will stick his or her fingers into the cervical opening and rotate it 360 degrees. By doing this, they are facilitating the release of prostaglandins from the membranes and from the cervix. This action helps the cervix to "ripen".
To help you understand a little better, imagine a party balloon filled with water. If you can imagine this water balloon inside of another balloon, you can then picture the health care provider using his or her finger to go inside the outer balloon opening and separating a portion of the water balloon that is inside the outer balloon away from the outer balloon.