Enemas are frequently given to women early in labour so that they empty their back passage. The idea is that this will give more room for the baby as it passes through the pelvis. It is also hoped that it will reduce the chance of the woman leaking faecal material while she is giving birth, a situation that is both embarrassing to the woman and a potential source of infection to mother and child.
A team of Cochrane Researchers coordinated from Bogota, Colombia, searched for studies involving the use of enemas and found three relevant randomised controlled trials that included 1765 women.
Analysing all the data showed no differences in the rates of any form of infection in the women or their babies for at least one month after the birth. There was a slight trend towards labours being shorter in women given enemas.
"This evidence does not support the routine use of enemas during labour, and consequently the practice of routinely giving them should be discouraged," says lead researcher Dr Ludovic Reveiz, from the Research Institute of the Fundación Universitaria Sanitas in Bogota.