Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Is your enema really necessary?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981; 282 doi: (Published 18 April 1981) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981;282:1269
  1. M L Romney,
  2. H Gordon


    Two hundred and seventy-four women admitted for delivery of singleton infants were studied for the effects of a preparatory enema on faecal contamination, duration of labour, and the incidence of infection in the newborn. Altogether 149 of the women were given an enema (controls) and 125 were not. The two groups showed no significant difference in the degree of faecal contamination during the first and second stages of labour, and the incidences of gross contamination were similar. Contamination after an enema was especially difficult to control, since it was more likely to be fluid. Seven neonates in each group showed evidence of infection, bowel organisms being isolated from four in the no-enema group and two in the control group. Durations of labour, though not strictly comparable, were similar in the two groups. The findings suggest that when preparing for normal labour the enema should be reserved for women who have not had their bowels open in the past 24 hours and have an obviously loaded rectum on initial pelvic examination.