What is a Foley catheter?

A Foley catheter is a thin, non-latex tube with a small balloon at one end. This type of catheter is most often used to drain urine from the bladder. It can also be used to ‘ripen’ or prepare the cervix for induction of labor.

How is the catheter inserted?

During a vaginal examination, your doctor or midwife will gently insert the end of the catheter (with the balloon empty) into your cervix. They may use a speculum to open your vagina and see your cervix. Then, they will inflate the balloon with saline (salt water) so that the catheter does not fall out easily.

What happens after the catheter is inserted?

You will stay in our office for about 30 minutes after the catheter is inserted. During this time, the effects of the balloon catheter and your baby’s heart beat will be monitored. If the monitoring shows that you and your baby are doing well, you will be able to go home.

The catheter helps your cervix soften and dilate (open) by putting pressure on the inside of your cervix. This will make the induction of labor easier and reduce the chance that you may need a cesarean section. You may feel some cramps while the catheter is in place. It is very common to have a discharge with some blood and mucus. Usually, the catheter stays in place until you go to the hospital the next day for induction. However, the catheter may fall out at home. If this happens, put the catheter in the garbage. You do not have to return to our office or go to the hospital, unless you think you are in labor or have other concerns.

What to do when you get home:

  • Get ready for your labor!
  • We encourage you to rest/nap for the induction you will be having soon. It can be a long and exhausting process.
  • You do not need to stay in bed. You can walk and move around with the catheter in place, but try not to do too much.
  • You can use the bathroom as usual.
  • You should eat and drink normally. Make sure you eat a nice meal before you come into the hospital.