July 24, 2019

Overdue Baby? How a Foley Bulb Induction Can Get Labor Going

The pros and cons of this nondrug option

Overdue pregnant woman on exam table with back pain

You’ve been pregnant for about a hundred years. So long, in fact, that you’ve forgotten what your toes look like. And still, your little bundle is showing zero signs of moving on out.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

As you start to search for information on labor induction, you come across a procedure called Foley bulb induction. What is a Foley bulb, and could it be right for you?

Ob/Gyn Amy Stephens, MD, fills in the blanks.

Labor induction 101

You want your bun to bake until it’s ready. But sometimes, that bun overstays its welcome and could use some help exiting the premises. Your doctor may recommend inducing labor for several reasons:

  • You’re a week or more past your due date.
  • Your water breaks but contractions don’t start.
  • You have complications or a medical condition that could affect the health of you or your baby.

What’s a Foley bulb induction?

Doctors can use several methods to jumpstart labor. Medications such as oxytocin (Pitocin®) or misoprostol (Cytotec®) soften the cervix and start contractions. But for a nondrug option, look to the Foley bulb, aka Foley balloon.

“Foley bulb induction is very common,” Dr. Stephens says. It’s a catheter that’s inserted into the cervix. Once it’s in place, a doctor fills the balloon with saline solution. The balloon puts pressure on the cervix, causing it to dilate.


Once the cervix begins to open, the balloon falls out, contractions start and life as you know it is about to change.

Foley bulb: the upsides

Medications to induce labor are quite safe, but they do have potential risks, including excessive bleeding after delivery. And fairly often, the drugs don’t work to start labor.

One advantage of the Foley method, according to Dr. Stephens, is that it can be used with or without medications. It’s especially helpful for women who’ve had a previous cesarean section, she adds, since labor-inducing drugs are a no-go for those pregnant people.

And the downsides

You’re now imagining a balloon being inflated inside your already-overcrowded uterus, so you’re probably wondering: Does it hurt? Some people experience discomfort, and others might feel a sharp pain when the balloon is inserted. (Then again, very little about childbirth feels like a day at the beach.)

But doctors can give medications such as nitrous oxide — yep, good old laughing gas — to ease discomfort during the procedure. “Most handle placement of the Foley bulb very well,” Dr. Stephens says.


Aside from some short-term discomfort, there are few drawbacks to Foley bulb induction. Like with medications, the procedure sometimes doesn’t work to kick-start labor, so there’s always a chance you’ll be disappointed by a stubborn cervix.

But if your doctor recommends induction, it’s worth considering the plus side: You may be one balloon away from holding the cutest baby ever in your arms.

Related Articles

Baby receiving a shot in their leg by healthcare worker in pink
December 7, 2023
COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids: What To Know and Why It’s Important

Children as young as 6 months should get vaccinated

Pregnant person with yellow glow emanating from them.
December 6, 2023
Is Pregnancy Glow a Real Thing?

More radiant skin may appear due to physiological responses to pregnancy

Natural antibiotics, pills and herbs, displayed on bamboo spoons on wooden table.
December 5, 2023
Why You Shouldn’t Self-Treat With ‘Natural Antibiotics’

Natural doesn’t mean they’re safe or effective

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try