What Does IOL Mean in Pregnancy?


Birth is a natural process, and for many women, it goes well enough without complications. But sometimes, when a baby is overdue or other complications arise for mother or infant, the woman may need to consider being induced, which means having the birth sped up with medical intervention.

In this article:

What Does an IOL  Mean?
What are the Different Types of IOL?
Is it More Painful to Induce Labor than a Natural Birth?
How Long Does it Take for Labour to Start after being Induced?
Can Inducing Labor be Dangerous?
What are the Side Effects of Induced Labor?

iol pregnancy

All You Need to Know About IOL during Pregnancy

What Does an IOL  Mean?

It simply means Induction of Labour (IOL).  Labour normally starts naturally between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. The cervix will soften and starts to open, then you’ll get contractions and your water breaks. In an induced labour, also called induction, these labour processes are started artificially. It might involve mechanically opening your cervix, breaking your waters, or using certain medication to start the contractions. Induction of labour is a relatively common procedure where labour is initiated before pregnant women go into labour and vaginal birth naturally by themselves. There are quite a few medical and surgical ways of inducing labour, some pregnant women also try natural ways of inducing labour.

What are the Different Types of IOL?

There are a few ways you can undergo an IOL, such as:

Synthetic Oxytocin or Syntocinon

The most common method of induction is through an IV drip containing a hormone called oxytocin. This drug is commonly known as Syntocinon or Pitocin.

To begin the induction, the expectant mother hooked up to an IV and she will then be monitored as the contractions begin, as her labour is now classified as high risk. Unfortunately the monitors can restrict movement and further interventions are needed.

Cervical Ripening Gels, Pessaries and Tablets

If a woman’s cervix is closed and not ready for labour, it can be “ripened“ with synthetic hormone (such as prostaglandin) first. Prostaglandins can be administered either as a gel, pessary or tablet, and just one dose is given to try and boot up the labour. Doses may be repeated if nothing happens after so long. Gels and pessaries can be inserted into the vagina and tablets can be taken orally. Labour takes a while to be induced this way.

Foley Balloon Catheter

The Foley balloon catheter was originally designed to empty the patient’s bladder but here, it can be slowly inflated and manually dilate the cervix to induce labour. It’s the safest and the most recommended option for women who’ve had a previous c-section and can be used on those who have a partially open cervix. It also doesn’t involve any medication, it has fewer risks for both mothers and babies.

Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM)

This can be for women whose cervix is already dilated. This is performed by an internal examination. Breaking the sac that surrounds the baby causes the fluid to be released and this can sometimes start labour contractions.

Is it More Painful to Induce Labor than a Natural Birth?

Induced labour is regarded as more painful than natural labour. Depending on the type of induction you’re undergoing, this could range from discomfort due to the procedure or more intense and longer lasting contractions as a result of the medicines you have been given. Women who undergo induced labour are more likely to ask for an epidural. There is usually no restriction on the type of pain medication you can consume if your labour is induced.

How Long Does it Take for Labour to Start after being Induced?

After taking prostaglandin to help prepare your cervix for labour, you might have to wait for a while till your water breaks (usually 24 hours). If you do not start contracting after this time, the doctor will suggest you take a drip which contains Syntocinon – a drug that encourages contractions which will be given through a drip in an arm.

Can Inducing Labor be Dangerous?

While induction of labour is a very common procedure, they do come with several risks, especially if medications are ingested. Some of these risks are serious, but others not so much. However, many inductions do result in further surgical interventions, such as emergency c-sections.

What are the Side Effects of Induced Labor?

As mentioned earlier, several issues might arise if you go ahead with an IOL, such as:

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)

The development of your baby during pregnancy depends on several factors: genes, your health and how well the placenta is. Some babies can be too small for their gestational age and others are growth-restricted because they are not receiving enough nourishment from the placenta.

Premature Rupture of Membranes

When the amniotic sac ruptures before labour starts, it is called premature rupture of membranes. Many women have 24 hours for contractions to begin naturally, and after that they are induced to avoid risk of infection.


In some cases, the amniotic fluid in your womb may measure too low or too high, this is called oligohydramnios. Amniotic fluid is essential for the development of muscles, limbs, lungs and the digestive system for the baby. If there is less amniotic fluid, it might cause stillbirths or defects. Despite the evidence showing labour induction does not improve outcomes for babies, this increases the risk of interventions and c-section.

Expecting a Large Child (Macrosomia)

Sometimes, your child might be afflicted with macrosomia, a condition that might be larger than expected (usually weighing more than 9 pounds). There are many reasons why some babies are larger than others, through reasons related to genes or to underlying health issues, such as gestational diabetes. There’s no way to measure an infant’s size and weight accurately before birth, so babies are only ‘suspected’ to have macrosomia.




Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!