Balloon dilators for labor induction: a historical review

James Andrew Smith. Balloon dilators for labor induction: a historical review. Journal of medical ethics and history of medicine, 6, 2013.


A number of recent articles attribute the origin of the use of cervical balloon dilation in the induction of labor to either Barnes in the 1860s or Embrey and Mollison in the 1960s. This review examines the historical record and reveals that, based on current practice attribution should rather be made to two contemporaries of Barnes: the Storer and Mattei. More importantly, Storer’s warning about the rubber used in dilators was ignored, leading to decades of possibly unnecessary deaths following childbirth. To conduct this study key search terms for PubMed, Google Scholar and the website of the University of Ryerson were utilized as “Barnes”, “Woodman”, “balloon dilation”, “balloon catheter”, “foley”, “colpeurynter”, “cervix uteri” and “induction.” Subsequent analysis was done on downloaded articles using BibDesk.