What Is a Foley Bulb Induction?

What Is a Foley Bulb Induction?

Ever heard of a foley bulb? 💡

It’s not usually a term you just sort of know about — not unless you’ve started doing your research into induction strategies for childbirth…

So, what exactly is a foley bulb?

Is it like a balloon? 🎈

And how long does it need to stay in for?

We’ve got all your questions, answered, in this guide. 👇

In this article: 📝

  • What is a foley bulb used for?
  • How long does it take to insert a Foley bulb?
  • How long should a Foley bulb stay in?
  • How do I know if my balloon induction is working?
  • What are the risks of Foley bulb?
  • How do they remove a Foley bulb?
  • Can I refuse balloon induction?

What is a foley bulb used for?

To put it simply, it’s used to induce labor. 🤰

Despite all of our best intentions, sometimes our little babes just don’t want to come out of the cozy environment we’ve made for them, and into the sterile, brightly lit hospital room.

I mean, who can blame them?!

But that does mean that, sometimes, we need a helping hand. 🤷‍♀️

Enter: foley bulb induction. 💡[1]

A foley bulb is used to help dilate (open) your cervix to prepare it for labor, and this happens by healthcare providers inserting it into your cervix.

It has a balloon-like end, which sits under the baby’s head, right at the bottom of your uterus.

Next, the balloon is inflated and filled with saline.

In theory, labor may then begin shortly after — and does so in around 70% of inductions. 👏 [2]

Is a foley bulb, foley catheter, and foley balloon the same thing?

Yep — they all mean the same thing.

It’s basically a few different terms for the procedure which puts pressure on your cervix, and encourages it to open ready for labor.

And, once the cervix is dilated, the catheter falls out.

How much does a Foley bulb dilate you?

To be able to start pushing to deliver your baby, you should be 10 centimeters dilated. 👶 [3]

So, the foley bulb gives you a helping hand with this, and helps to induce the early stages of labor.

The early stages of labor are when your cervix is dilated between 1 and 6 centimeters, so the foley bulb should help you get somewhere around here. [4]


How long does it take to insert a Foley bulb?

It’s usually fairly quick — only about 10 minutes or so. ⌚

And then, after that, you may be in the early stages of labor as soon as a few hours later, or it can take a few days.

But, if you’re a first-time mama-to-be, it may take a little longer than 24 hours from the start of the foley induction to delivery. [5]

Can I eat before a balloon induction?

Yep — you can eat as normal before a foley bulb induction.

This is because it’s not a surgical procedure.

So, good news — you don’t need to limit what you eat before baby is encouraged into the world. 😌

How long should a Foley bulb stay in?

It’s kept in place for up to 24 hours. [6]

If your cervix dilates during that time, the catheter will fall out naturally.

But, if after 24 hours you’re still not fully dilated, the catheter will be removed.

In theory, your cervix will be soft enough for your waters to break now, but in some cases, an alternative method may need to be considered.

Your doctor will discuss with you the next best step, but in some cases, a cesarean section may be necessary.

🔍 Read More: What is Cervidil, & How Does it Work For Inducing Labor?

Can you walk around with a Foley bulb induction?

You sure can!

Walking around, showering, bathing… the lot. 🚿

You can keep doing things as you would do normally — you just might feel a bit of discomfort.

How long after Foley can you pee?

Right away.

You should be able to have normal urination and bowel movements while you have the foley balloon inserted.

No pee anxiety for you, mama-to-be! 🚾


How do I know if my balloon induction is working?

So, this is where Mother Nature kicks in and gives us a bit of a clue…

You may experience very strong period cramps after the balloon is inserted, but these usually slow down around 6-8 hours afterward. [7]

But, good news — that tends to mean the foley bulb is working correctly, and your cervix is opening up.

Should you tug on Foley balloon?

No, definitely not.

The ballon should remain in place to keep applying that pressure to the cervix to open up and dilate so little babe can make their entrance into the world.

Does a Foley balloon pop?

It doesn’t pop…

But, if your cervix dilates, it does start to deflate.

It will then fall out, indicating the process has worked. 👏

But, if your cervix hasn’t fully dilated, the foley bulb will be removed after 24 hours.

Do you stay in hospital after being induced with balloon?

It really depends on what’s going on with you and your pregnancy, mama-to-be.

In some cases, a foley bulb induction can be performed as an outpatient procedure, so you’d be able to go home afterward.

But it can also need to be monitored in hospital, especially as labor can start pretty quickly for some women.

What are the risks of Foley bulb?

  • 😖 Pain

This is one of the biggies.

So, we’ll be real with you — you may find your foley bulb induction pretty uncomfortable, and in some cases, quite painful.

But, sometimes, we need to push through the pain to get to the end goal, which is to hold your little babe in your arms for the first time. 🤗

But if you’re worried about the pain, make sure you discuss all your options with your doctor before agreeing to the procedure, as there may be an alternative that is better suited to your pain tolerance.

  • 🦠 Infection

Like any other procedure, there is a small chance you could be putting yourself at risk of developing an infection, or fever. [8]

Despite this, the procedure is still considered low-risk compared to other procedures. [9]

  • ❌ Unsuccessful

Of course, it might also not work…

This can be incredibly frustrating for mamas waiting around for labor, and also having to endure a potentially painful method to get things moving, and then they just… don’t. 😬

But, as mentioned above, foley bulbs have around a 70% success rate, so it could be worth trying anyway to see if it can help speed things along. 🤞


How painful is Foley bulb induction?

As mentioned above, we won’t sugarcoat this for you…

Some women do find it pretty painful.

It’s been described by some as similar to bad period cramps, while others have said it’s like wearing a giant tampon. 😅

Becca says: “I was induced with a balloon, was inserted around 2pm fell out around 7ish (definitely wasn’t in longer than 6 hours) was uncomfortable but bearable - they sent me home with this in.” 🥜

Hannah says: “So I just had a Foley Bulb Catheter fitted and I’m waiting another 24hrs in hospital. I’m not going to lie, it was very painful and I bled a lot. Needed a lot of gas and air and I’m very crampy now.” 🥜

But, everyone’s pain tolerances are different — if you know your pain tolerance is pretty low, though, there may be less painful induction alternatives you could try.

Your doctor will be able to advise you on what’s best for you and your pregnancy. 🩺

Is it normal to bleed with a Foley bulb?

It’s normal to have some spotting from the foley balloon induction. 🩸[6]

But, if your bleeding is similar to, or more blood, than a period, be sure to give the hospital a call right away.

The same goes for if you’re feeling any strong contractions or cramping, or if your waters break.

Can Foley bulb damage cervix?

There have been some theories that foley bulb inductions could cause damage to the cervix, and could then affect the risk of premature birth in your next pregnancy. [10]

But, this study has said that shouldn’t be the case, and having a foley catheter doesn’t seem to increase the risk of preterm birth in a woman’s next pregnancy. [11]

So, we’re taking that as a no, mamas!

How do they remove a Foley bulb?

Well, it’s all pretty clever, really.

The healthcare provider will use a syringe to insert into the outside end of the catheter, and then remove the liquid from inside the balloon.

Then, they’ll be able to gently pull the tube out.

But, in some cases, the foley catheter would’ve fallen out earlier due to the cervix dilating, which means there’s no need for a removal procedure.

Can I refuse balloon induction?

It’s totally your call, mama-to-be.

Whatever you feel most comfortable with. ❤️

All your options will be explained to you beforehand, making sure you’re aware of which induction method is best suited for you.

And, if you’d prefer to wait it out, or think about other alternatives, like a planned c-section, you can chat through all these things with your doctor.

But, yes — you can absolutely refuse a balloon induction if you don’t want one.

Need some advice and support from mamas who’ve been through it all?

They’re all waiting for you to join the conversation on Peanut today. 🥜


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