When you’re pregnant, you find yourself in a whole new world of terminology, jargon and acronyms.
It can be so confusing trying to work out what it all means, and sometimes you can’t help but feel like a newbie at it all.
Amongst all the incomprehensible doctor shorthand, you may notice the letters IOL on your medical records.
So what does IOL stand for in pregnancy?
If you see the letters IOL, it simply means induction of labour.
Perhaps you’ve had an IOL for a previous pregnancy, or perhaps you’ve been scheduled for one in your current pregnancy.
Your hospital may offer several forms of IOL, including:
#1: Cervical Ripening Gels, Tablets and Pessaries
If a woman’s cervix is closed and not ready for labour, it can be ripened with synthetic hormone (prostaglandin) first.
Prostaglandins can be administered via a gel, pessary or tablet, and just one dose is given to try and start labour. The dose may be repeated if nothing progresses after so many hours.
Gels and pessaries are inserted into the vagina, and tablets can be taken orally. Some hospitals allow women to go home after the application of prostaglandins, then return when labour is established.
#2: Synthetic Oxytocin
The most common method of induction is via an IV drip containing a synthetic version of the labour hormone, oxytocin. The drug is commonly known as Syntocinon in Australia, and Pitocin in the US.
To begin the induction, the pregnant woman is admitted to hospital, then hooked up to the IV. She will then be monitored as the contractions begin, as her labour is now classed as high risk. Unfortunately the monitors can restrict movement and further interventions are common.
Read more about the risks of induction of labour.
#3: Artificial Rupture Of Membranes (AROM)
If a woman’s cervix is partially open, her doctor can rupture the membranes (also called an amniotomy).
Using an amnihook (which looks like a long crochet hook) inside the vagina, the doctor will break the bag of waters surroundingthe baby, in the hope it triggers labour.
#4: Foley Balloon Catheter
The Foley balloon catheter was originally designed to empty a patient’s bladder. It can be slowly inflated and manually dilates the cervix.
It’s a safer, recommended option for women who’ve had a previous c-section, and can be used on anyone who has a partially open cervix. Because it doesn’t involve medication, it’s has fewer risks for both mothers and babies.
While inductions of labour are a very common procedure, they do come with risks, especially if medications are used. Some of these risks are serious, others not so much. However, many inductions do result in further interventions, including emergency c-sections. In Australia and the US, one in three babies are born by c-section, which is double the recommended level from the World Health Organization. Reducing the number of inductions of labour will highly likely reduce the number of c-sections performed.
It’s important to make sure you’re aware of all the risks as well as the benefits, so you can make a decision which will offer the best outcome for you and your baby.