As shown in the above results, subjects who were primed with FC followed by additional vaginal prostaglandins if needed after 48 h, mostly delivered vaginally (65%). Our unit has an IOL rate of 11%, which is way below the national average but comparable to the rates reported by others . Careful management strategies adhering to guidelines as an academic unit might have resulted this low IOL rate. Many studies have reported that both FC and prostaglandin E2 gel are equally effective in pre induction cervical ripening [8, 15]. FC is a safe method of labor induction for the mother, fetus and newborn .
In Sri Lanka conventionally most of the Obstetric Units are practicing IOL at 41 weeks of gestation for women with otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies. Latest guideline on IOL published by SLCOG has mentioned that IOL is recommended for otherwise uncomplicated, low-risk women who are known with certainty to have reached 41 weeks of gestation . Furthermore, this guideline elaborates that it is good practice to assess fetal wellbeing around 40 weeks to select women for conservative management until 41 weeks gestation . This was later challenged because firstly, it was based on epidemiological data and secondly, it was calculated from the statistical distribution of the timing of delivery from the last menstrual period (LMP) . Moreover, this definition did not consider the risk of pregnancy complications including stillbirth during late gestational ages. It is now accepted that gestational age assessment by LMP is not accurate . Maturity of 39 week Asian fetuses may be equal to that of a 41 week Caucasian fetus, implying that Asian fetuses mature sooner than Caucasians . South Asian and black women have shorter length of gestation compared to Caucasian indicating the likelihood of high early perinatal complications in south Asian and black women .
FC is much cheaper when compared to vaginal prostaglandin tablets. A FC costs 90 LKR (0.7 USD), while 3 mg of prostaglandin costs about 1500 LKR (11.5 USD). Therefore it seems to be a cost effective method in developing countries like Sri Lanka. It has also shown to be a safe method in cervical priming and found to have same efficacy when compared with prostaglandins [7, 10]. Some studies from developing countries on IOL have attempted to find out an economically feasible method as a cervical priming agent. Recently conducted PROBAAT trial in Netherlands, has evaluated cost-effectiveness of IOL at term with a FC compared to vaginal prostaglandin E2 gel . The FC group showed higher costs due to longer labour ward occupation and less cost related to induction material and neonatal admissions . However, FC usage has showed a comparable caesarean section rate compared with prostaglandin induction and therefore the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio has not been informative . FC use resulted in fewer neonatal admissions and asphyxia/postpartum haemorrhage compared with prostaglandin use . They have concluded that FC and prostaglandin E2 gel labour induction generate comparable costs . Interestingly, an Australian trial had reported different results which are more in favour of FC as a better cost-effective method. In that study the only difference in cost between the three groups (Foley, double balloon catheter and prostaglandin E2) relate to the cost of the cervical ripening device as there were no differences between groups in length of time in labour ward, mode of delivery, postnatal complications, duration of hospital admission or re-presentation to hospital after discharge . The cost of ripening devices used in the trial were substantially lower for the Foley catheter (AUS$2.00) compared with the double balloon catheter (AUS$81) and prostaglandin E2 gel (AUS$124 for two doses) . In a setting where cost of labour ward stay is relatively less due to cheaper labour cost, FC seems to be a cost effective solution for cervical priming. A study from India concluded that vaginal misoprostol is a cheap, highly effective, stable at room temperature and easy to administer agent for labor induction . They have shown that misoprostol is superior to FC/oxytocin . However this result is debatable. A metaanalysis reported that vaginally administered misoprostol was more effective than dinoprostone vaginal insert for cervical priming and IOL and the safety profile of both drugs were similar . This indicates that both FC and misoprostol has some economic advantages over prostaglandin. Although misoprostol is widely used worldwide for various indications in pregnancy, in Sri Lanka, it is not licensed at present . Therefore FC becomes more important in IOL cost reduction in our setting.
As shown in above results, subjects who were primed with FC followed by additional vaginal prostaglandins after 48 h, had a high chance of getting a vaginal delivery (65%). We had to deflate FC at 48 h in 16 subjects (29%) with a total vaginal delivery rate of 79%. Ekele and Isah reported that most women (95%) would have expelled FC spontaneously within 72 h of insertion and a 91% vaginal delivery rate . According to our results nulliparous women reported 25/32, 78% vaginal delivery rate. Study done in Australia among nulliparous women had reported 45/110, 41% of spontaneous vaginal delivery rate . Nevertheless, as a conclusion of this trial they have mentioned that labour induction in nullipara with unfavourable cervices results in high caesarean delivery rates . Although all methods (double balloon, single balloon and prostaglandin) in this study had similar efficacy, the single balloon catheter had offered the best combination of safety and patient comfort . In our study, subjects who have completed 41 weeks of gestation with otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies and who were primed with FC alone (21/32) had reported 83% rate of vaginal delivery. Amongst who have completed 41 weeks, there were 15 nulliparous women reporting 13/15, 87% of vaginal delivery rate. This indicates that FC is a good option for the subjects with completed 41 weeks and especially nulliparous women in our unit.
However, a recent retrospective cohort study comparing nulliparous women with uncomplicated post term pregnancies with FC induction versus spontaneous labour has shown that Foley induction resulted in a sixfold increase in risk of caesarean section rate (odds ratio 6.2) . But among parous women it was low and not significant . In our study, we did not have a control group to compare. A recent Sri Lankan trial conducted among women with uncomplicated singleton pregnancies with 40 weeks and 6 days, has also shown that intracervical FC for 24 h was better than two doses of 25 μg misoprostol administered orally 4 h apart, for pre induction cervical ripening in these prolonged pregnancies . There FC has shown to be effective for both nulliparous and multiparous giving higher MBS and lower caesarean section rate. In our study, subjects who needed Foley only have a lesser chance of getting a caesarean section compared to those subjects who needed Foley followed by prostaglandin (relative risk = 0.40, 95% CI = 0.15–1.09, P = 0.09). Although this is not statistically significant, the trend seen is biologically plausible, and might be confirmed with a larger sample size and greater statistical power.
Overall 53/56, 95% had mild or no discomfort with FC cervical priming indicating that FC has a good patient satisfaction. The only available study reporting patient satisfaction for FC using visual analogue scales (0–10) has shown that FC had best patient comfort during insertion and ripening phase both . In this study prostaglandin and FC had similar pain scores during insertion whereas during ripening phase FC had greater patient comfort than prostaglandins (pain score > 4, 36% in FC group vs 63% in prostaglandin group, P < 0.001) .