How Do Enemas Induce Labor?

Inducing labor means encouraging the onset of regular and active contractions that will dilate the cervix. A number of methods may help induce labor, including administering an enema -- introducing fluid directly into the rectum to empty the colon. An enema may help with cervical ripening and labor induction, according to the American Family Physician website 2.

How an Enema Might Help

When administering fluid into the rectum, it’s common for bowels to begin contracting. As a pregnant woman’s bowels contract, the uterus may also contract at the same time, according to the OBGYN North website. Repeated contractions of the uterus may lead to cervical ripening and dilation over time, which can enhance labor.

Expert Opinions on Effectiveness

Most physicians and hospitals have discontinued the standard practice of performing enemas on women in labor. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a review of routine enemas during labor to determine their effect on labor duration and infection rates 3. The WHO determined that enemas were not effective for reducing neonatal infection, perineal tears and labor duration. The WHO concluded that enemas given during labor are not effective for improving maternal or neonatal outcomes.

Potential Benefits

The WHO found that less fecal soiling during delivery occurred in women who received enemas, due to the evacuation of the colon. Some women may be able to push more effectively after an enema, according to Allesandro Obstetrics and Gynecology. This may be due to reduced worry about having a bowel movement during delivery. Having an enema can also eliminate the discomfort of having a bowel movement during the first day or two after delivery.

The Enema Procedure

If you want an enema prior to delivery, choose to have a small, plain enema, which will likely not produce severe results, according to the OBGYN North website. You might request an enema at the hospital, or you could perform it at home on yourself before going to the hospital. For home administration, purchase an enema kit with solution. The procedure involves lying on your left side with your legs bent. After insertion of the nozzle into the rectum, simply squeeze out the contents completely to empty the container. It’s optimal to retain the solution for up to 10 minutes before expelling the fluid into the toilet. Discuss the use of at home enemas with your doctor before using one.