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As if being in tremendous labor pain, having a gown that doesn't stay shut in the back and knowing that at a some point before it's all over, you'll have a room full of virtual strangers watching your every grimace while pushing to give birth to your baby weren't enough, the labor and delivery nurse comes in with the news that your doctor or midwife has an order for an enema in your chart. This paints a pretty accurate picture of what labor was like not so long ago, where giving a laboring mother an enema was'nt a matter of choice but rather a standard, routinely administered in early labor as part of the hospital admission procedure.

The theory behind giving an enema in early labor is that emptying the bowels before delivery eliminates the possibility of waste matter in the rectum hindering the baby's descent through the birth canal and prevents contamination of the sterile birthing field.

Today, the choice to receive an enema is usually that of the expectant mothers. It's recognized that as long as the mother has had a bowel movement in the past 24 hours, the compression or tightness of the birth canal isn't likely to be a problem. Today all the supplies used under the mother's bottom half are usually disposable. So if an accident happens and something else is pushed out before the baby, you're covered and it can be disposed of quickly.

An enema is described as fluid injected into the rectum for the purpose of clearing out the bowels. Choices regarding the enema option include:

  • No enema
  • Self-administered or given by nurse
  • If constipated at onset of labor
  • To start or stimulate labor

At times, enemas have been able to start contractions. Doctors or Midwives might want an enema performed to help stimulate or speed labor. The decision of whether you will or will not need an enema should be discussed with your doctor or midwife during one of your prenatal appointments. The decision should be clearly noted on the labor and delivery chart and in the birth plan if you've created one.

Many women have multiple bowel movements of loose stool days before labor begins. This is nature's way of emptying out the bowels to prepare the body for delivery, so chances are that Mother Nature will take care of this decision for you. If not, make your decision based on what you're comfortable with.


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