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Foley balloon or a Foley bulb induction?

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Foley bulb induction

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Foley bulb or Foley balloon is a safe method of inducing labor during pregnancy when things don’t seem to get going as they should during delivery. Here’s everything you need to know about Foley Balloon or Foley Bulb Induction– a rather common method of inducing labor.

Foley Balloon Or a Foley Bulb Induction?

A Foley bulb or Foley balloon is a labor-inducing process carried by a balloon-catheter-like device that softens the cervix and opens it up when labor needs to be induced. The said Foley catheter is inserted into the cervix and filled with a saline solution which causes the catheter to inflate like a balloon. The subsequent pressure because the cervix dilates and induces labor.

What is a Foley Bulb Induction ?

Foley bulb induction is advised to women when their cervix dilates on its own and you are ready to be induced. The Foley bulb method of dilating the cervix is usually enough to trigger contractions and cause the labor to start. Foley bulb is specifically recommended to women who do not like to or do not appropriately respond to synthetic hormone-like medication including misoprostol or Pitocin.

When is a Foley bulb induction recommended ?

The Foley bulb induction method is usually recommended by doctors when the mother needs to be induced labor, but her cervix has not dilated as it should. In other words, a mother’s cervix is supposed to dilate and open up naturally prior to going into labor and if your cervix does not dilate as it should, the Foley build method is used to ripen the cervix. In some cases, synthetic hormones may also be recommended in combination with Foley bulbs.

A couple of other scenarios where Foley bulb induction may be advised include-

  • Drug-free induction: If you are a mother who prefers natural methods to induce labor as against synthetic hormonal medicines, a Foley bulb is usually enough to kickstart the labor, evading the need for medicines
  • History of C-section babies: Foley bulb is considered a safer alternative of inducing labor in women who’ve had a history of C-sections. This is because the administration of hormonal medicines in such cases may translate to delivery complications.
  • Accelerated labor: Foley bulb method for induction of labor in combination with misoprostol or synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) reduces the total amount of time a woman spends dealing with labor pain v/s when using misoprostol or a Foley bulb alone.

What Happens During a Foley Bulb Induction ?

Though it is always a good idea to consult your doctor and take their professional advice on what happens during a Foley bulb induction, here’s a quick walkthrough to get you started-

  • You will be made to lie on an examination table, placing your feet in a set of stirrups (just like all your other gynecological appointments)
  • The doctor will then use a speculum to examine the state of the cervix and use an iodine solution to sterilize the cervix, reducing the risk of a potential infection
  • Next, the tip of the Foley bulb will be inserted into your cervix and the bulb will be then inflated with an ounce of saline solution
  • The catheter will be tied off right outside your vagina in order to keep the water from flowing back out
  • The other end of the catheter will be tucked into your vagina with the help of a gauze pad
  • In some cases, a cervical ripening drug may also be administered in combination

Once this process has been carried out, the Foley bulb will begin to put pressure on the cervix, encouraging a dilation and getting the labor started. The entire process may take anywhere close to 12 hours. The amount of dilation achieved can only be determined after the removal of the bulb from the vagina. If the cervix dilates a lot, the bulb may even fall out on its own.

Is a Foley Bulb Induction Painful?

Having a Foley bulb inserted can be a different experience for different women. While some may feel uncomfortable, some may call it painful and some may feel nothing at all. Even in cases where some amount of pain or discomfort is felt, the pain typically does not last too long. The balloon, once inside you, to put things in a better perspective, should feel like a super tampon. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) may also be suggested to make the vaginal insertion procedure less uncomfortable.

What are the pros of Foley Bulb Induction?

Some noteworthy pros of Foley balloon induction include-

  • Low risk as compared to medicinal induction
  • Drug-free method of labor induction
  • Ideal for women who have had a cesarean baby in the past since cervical ripening drugs as a method of induction greatly increase the risk of complications versus the foley bulb method
  • Foley bulb, when used in a combination with drugs like misoprostol, can speed labor and help deliver the baby a few hours sooner as compared to reliance on the foley bulb or misoprostol alone

What are the risks of Foley bulb induction ?

Though the Foley bulb method is generally considered safe and does not have a lot of risks associated with it, here are some considerable drawbacks to note-

  • The insertion process can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and painful
  • It is not a foolproof method and the success achieved varies from woman to woman
  • The method can also cause severe bleeding in women who have low-lying placentas. The method may not even be advised in most such cases
  • If done incorrectly, it can also cause extended labor, defying its very purpose, and can cause complications if left in the cervix for too long. As per a study carried out in the past, it was also found that “the placement of a Foley balloon for 7 hours or more is associated with a much longer labor, up to 11.5 hours longer (or a 37 percent increase in duration).”

What are some other ways of inducing labor ?

While the Foley bulb method is just one way of inducing labor, a couple of other methods include-

  • Synthetic hormonal cervical-ripening agents like misoprostol
  • Stripping or rupturing of the membrane that causes the water to break
  • Pitocin, synthetic oxytocin known to trigger contractions

Foley Bulb Induction Final Thoughts

The Foley bulb or Foley balloon method is only one of the methods of induction that can be considerably helpful to women who prefer drug-free methods of labor induction. As an expecting mother, we advise that you learn everything you can about labor and understand the choices you can pick from if need be since you’ll know if you need to be induced or not only closer to your due date or when you’re in the delivery room.

Speak to your healthcare provider in advance, get rid of all inhibitions if any, and always be ensured- there’s no concrete right or wrong way of doing things. Do what you deem the best for you and your baby and do not forget to check the best labor gowns while at it!

Foley bulb induction FAQs:

1) What is a bishop score ?

A Bishop score, also known as Bishop's score or the cervix score is a pre-labor scoring procedure that helps determine whether induction of labor will be required. In other words, Bishop's score may be conducted on women to ascertain the need for induction methods like the foley bulb. It also may be used to assess the likelihood of preterm delivery.

2) Can you pee with a Foley bulb ?

Foley catheter, a thin, non-latex tube with a small balloon at one end, and does not interfere with the passage of urine. You should be able to urinate normally during the induction. So, yes, you can pee with a bulb inside you.

3) How long should the foley bulb be left inside ?

Typically, the Foley balloon falls out on its own after the cervix has dilated to 3 centimeters (cm). It should be noted that a delivery, however, is carried out only after the cervix dilates to 10 cm.

On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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