Its called stripping or 'sweeping' the membranes.
Baby is in a balloon of water. That balloon sits up against the cervix. When a Dr. Sweeps or "strips" the membranes so to speak, it means that they put their finger or two- inside the cervix and sweep around, attempting to dislodge or unseal the seal that has been created.
Imagine the feeling of sitting on a leather couch in the heat, when you pull up your thigh that 'seal' is broken. It's much the same concept with sweeping the membranes, to break the seal around the cervix.
Theory is it also might rouse up some hormones in order to get some labor going on as well.
at 10:25 AM on May. 30, 2009