CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd 2021; 81(01): 70-80
DOI: 10.1055/a-1308-2341
GebFra Science

Outpatient Induction of Labor – Are Balloon Catheters an Appropriate Method?

Article in several languages: English | deutsch
Werner Rath
1  Medizinische Fakultät, Gynäkologie und Geburtshilfe, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Patrick Stelzl
2  Universitätsklinik für Gynäkologie, Geburtshilfe und Gynäkologische Endokrinologie, Kepler Universitätsklinikum, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz, Linz, Austria
Sven Kehl
3  Frauenklinik, Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, Erlangen, Germany
› Author Affiliations


As the number of labor inductions in high-income countries has steadily risen, hospital costs and the additional burden on obstetric staff have also increased. Outpatient induction of labor is therefore becoming increasingly important. It has been estimated that 20 – 50% of all pregnant women requiring induction would be eligible for outpatient induction. The use of balloon catheters in patients with an unripe cervix has been shown to be an effective and safe method of cervical priming. Balloon catheters are as effective as the vaginal administration of prostaglandin E2 or oral misoprostol. The advantage of using a balloon catheter is that it avoids uterine hyperstimulation and monitoring is less expensive. This makes balloon catheters a suitable option for outpatient cervical ripening. Admittedly, intravenous administration of oxytocin to induce or augment labor is required in approximately 75% of cases. Balloon catheters are not associated with a higher risk of maternal and neonatal infection compared to vaginal PGE2. Low-risk pregnancies (e.g., post-term pregnancies, gestational diabetes) are suitable for outpatient cervical ripening with a balloon catheter. The data for high-risk pregnancies are still insufficient. The following conditions are recommended when considering an outpatient approach: strict selection of appropriate patients (singleton pregnancy, cephalic presentation, intact membranes), CTG monitoring for 20 – 40 minutes after balloon placement, the patient must be given detailed instructions about the indications for immediate readmission to hospital, and 24-hour phone access to the hospital must be ensured. According to reviewed studies, the balloon catheter remained in place between 12 hours (“overnight”) and 24 hours. The most common reason for readmission to hospital was expulsion of the balloon catheter. The advantages of outpatient versus inpatient induction of cervical ripening with a balloon catheter were the significantly shorter hospital stay, the lower costs, and higher patient satisfaction, with both procedures having been shown to be equally effective. Complication rates (e.g., vaginal bleeding, severe pain, uterine hyperstimulation syndrome) during the cervical ripening phase are low (0.3 – 1.5%); severe adverse outcomes (e.g., placental abruption) have not been reported. Compared to inpatient induction of labor using vaginal PGE2, outpatient cervical ripening using a balloon catheter had a lower rate of deliveries/24 hours and a significantly higher need for oxytocin; however, hospital stay was significantly shorter, frequency of pain during the cervical ripening phase was significantly lower, and patientsʼ duration of sleep was longer. A randomized controlled study comparing outpatient cervical priming with a balloon catheter with outpatient or inpatient induction of labor with oral misoprostol would be of clinical interest.

Publication History

Received: 25 April 2020

Accepted after revision: 06 November 2020

Publication Date:
19 January 2021 (online)

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