Using Foley Bulb for Labour Induction: Benefits, Procedure & Risks

Using a Foley Bulb for Induction of Labour

From conception to birth, as an expectant mother, you always want to make the right decision for the well-being of your unborn baby. It is essential to be well equipped with all the knowledge relating to labour and delivery as you near your due date. Sometimes due to various reasons, some women fail to experience labour when they should. Hence there are different methods of inducing labour. Here we shall be discussing Foley bulb for the induction of labour.

What Is a Foley Bulb Induction?

The Foley bulb induction is a procedure that is used for dilating a woman’s cervix during labour. The doctor inserts a catheter into the cervix, which has a deflated end. Once the catheter is placed into the cervix, the doctor fills the catheter with saline. This process is used to put pressure on the cervix or the uterine walls and cause dilation. As soon as the cervix dilates to 3 centimetres, the catheter falls out on its own. This method is not a popular method of induction, but for women who wish to opt for a non-medicinal process of induction, this option might be considered.

Reasons Why Pregnant Women Need a Foley Bulb Catheter Induction

In some cases, a pregnant woman may need a Foley balloon catheter induction, and some of these reasons for this are:

  • In case your water breaks, but your contractions have not started.
  • In case you are overdue or have crossed your due date.
  • In case, you have a certain medical condition such as hypertension, your baby might not be getting ample oxygen, or you have an infection etc.

What Are the Benefits of a Foley Catheter?

A urinary catheter bulb

Though this is not a very popular method of induction, a Foley catheter has its own sets of benefits. It may not only mechanically open up the cervix, but it may sometimes simultaneously start the labour procedure too. Also, it has been observed that women who used a Foley catheter that is popularly known as Foley bulb effectively, gave birth within 24 hours after the insertion. The use of this induction method is also believed to lower the chances of a caesarean delivery when it is used with or without other induction methods. The use of this induction method puts less stress on your baby’s heart rate, in comparison to other procedures of induction.

What Are the Risks of Using a Foley Catheter for Labour Induction?

Here are some potential risks of using a Foley catheter for labour induction:

  • It may cause intense pelvic pain to the pregnant woman, and thus may require immediate removal.
  • It may cause fever.
  • It may lead to vaginal bleeding.
  • It may make your baby move from the head down to breech position.
  • It may lead to non-assuring foetal heart rate.
  • It may increase the chances of infection.
  • It may increase the chances of caesarean delivery.
  • It may lead to uterine rupture.
  • It may cause umbilical cord complications in babies.
  • It may cause lower foetal heartbeat when used along with other labour inducing medicines.

The Procedure of Labour Induction Using a Foley Balloon/Bulb

Before the procedure of Foley balloon for cervical dilation begins, your midwife/doctor will take your blood pressure, temperature, check your pulse, and view your pregnancy records. Your baby’s position will be established, and your baby’s heart rate will be monitored too. Here’s what may happen during the procedure:

  • You will be told to lie down on your back, with your knees wide open. Your doctor will insert a balloon catheter inside your vagina.
  • The balloon will be filled with saline, which may cause pressure on your cervix, and encourage it to soften and dilate.
  • As your cervix opens, the catheter will fall out on its own. In case your cervix does not dilate, the catheter will be removed.
  • In either case, you will stay in the hospital until the procedure is complete.

How Does It Feel After the Insertion of a Balloon Catheter?

The experience may vary from one woman to another, but the factors that may determine how you feel may depend on:

  • The condition of the cervix
  • The procedure that has been adopted
  • Having had a baby before

In most cases, it is established that the insertion of the catheter balloon may cause varying levels of discomfort, but it may be within the tolerable limits.

Things to Keep in Mind After the Insertion of the Foley Catheter

The Foley catheter may make the cervix softer and stretchier, and this aids the cervix to open up. However, some things need to be remembered after the insertion of the Foley catheter, and these include:

  • You may be allowed to take showers or baths if you want to.
  • You may be allowed to move around unless your doctor advises you against it.
  • You may be able to pass your urine and bowels without any problem.
  • You may check the foley balloon by giving it a gentle push, and see if it is working.
  • You may get some spotting for a few hours after insertion, which is very normal.
  • You may experience cramping, similar to the spasms experienced during your periods, and it may stay until the catheter falls.

However, if you experience heavy bleeding, your water breaks, or you think you are going into labour, call your midwife or doctor right away.

Foley Catheter Induction and VBAC

In case, a woman has had a previous caesarean birth or has a scarred uterus, the doctor might suggest the Foley catheter induction. Though the intracervical Foley catheter for induction of labour for women who wish to opt for VBAC is very limited, the results might be positive. In a study conducted on approximately 150 women, who opted for foley catheter induction for a vaginal birth after caesarean delivery, it was observed that the success rate was more than 50 per cent. However, there were complications reported too, but those were within the expected limits.

Foley catheter induction is a safe and effective way of induction. It is necessary that you discuss the various pros and cons of this method of induction with your doctor before you decide to opt for this procedure.

Also Read: Nipple Stimulation to Induce Labour – How Does It Work

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