Enema is a fluid treatment to empty the bowel. The fluid is inserted in the lower bowel to push the waste through the rectum. The enema should be administered only by a professional, and in a medical center, for the patient’s safety.
The enema kit includes a liquid bag that has a tube, through which the fluid is delivered to the rectum. After the procedure, there will be an urge to use the bathroom (1). Some women are given enema before or during labor.
But is it an essential procedure before labor? We will tell you about it in this MomJunction post on enema during labor.
Why Is Enema Given During Labor?
Passing stool is a normal occurrence during labor or delivery. Around 25% of women may experience what is called fecal incontinence or accidental bowel movement when they are in labor (2). To avoid this and save themselves from the embarrassment, some women prefer to get enema during labor.
Here are a few reasons why enema could be given during labor.
- Reduces fecal contamination: According to a study, pregnant women who were given enema had reduced fecal contamination rate compared to those who did not get an enema. Fetal contamination could cause neonatal infection and perineal wound infection.
However, another study found no difference in the fecal contamination rate between the enema and the non-enema groups (3). The risk of fetal contamination doesn’t hold for all pregnant women, which is why enema is not necessary for everyone.
- Shortens labor period: Giving enema before the onset of labor could shorten the duration of labor as the back passage becomes empty, creating more space for the baby to move out. But there is no proper evidence to prove it (3).
- Relieves bowel problem: In case the bowels have not opened for 24 hours, enema could ease out that discomfort before the beginning of labor. If not done so, the bowel movement after the process of delivery could cause discomfort to the women, especially if she has an episiotomy.
That said, enema does not help every case of constipation. For instance, women who have an irritable bowel disease or intestinal obstruction are not recommended an enema (3) (4). Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend using enema to reduce the use of labor augmentation (5).
There are several claims that make the use of enema before labor seem valid. But these claims lack proper scientific evidence, which is why some experts do not recommend enema during pregnancy.
Why Is Enema Not Recommended Before Labor?
Administering enema during labor is not recommended due to the following reasons (6).
- Discomfort: Some hospitals support the routine use of enema during labor, even when it is not required. This can cause discomfort for some women, and hence, it is not recommended for all.
- Increased delivery cost: Enema before labor is known to increase the overall cost of delivery, which is not feasible for many.
- Risk of infections: Enema given during labor could increase the risk of infection to the mother and the baby. New mothers could be at risk of endometritis and certain episiotomy complications, while the newborn could be at risk of a skin infection, respiratory infection, or sepsis.
- Ineffectiveness: There are no proven results for or against enema before labor, which makes people apprehensive about considering it.
As there is insufficient information available on the side effects after the enema is given, its use is not recommended. Also, a bowel movement is a pretty normal occurrence during labor or childbirth, and considering enema to escape this part may not be a good idea. You may talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of enema before making any decision.
Do you have any experiences to share? Tell us about them in the comments section below.
2. Managing Incontinence During Pregnancy And After Childbirth; National Association For Continence
3. E. Kovavisarach and W. Sringamvong; Enema versus No-Enema in Pregnant Women on Admission in Labor: A Randomized Controlled Trial; Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand (2005)
4. Constipation; Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center
5. WHO recommendation on administration of enema for reducing the use of labour augmentation; World Health Organization (2014)
6. L. Reveiz, H. G. Gaitán, and L. G. Cuervo; Enemas during labour; The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2013)
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