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Keywords:

  • Caesarean section;
  • gum chewing;
  • ileus;
  • meta-analysis;
  • postoperative

Background

Gum chewing has been reported to enhance bowel motility and reduce postoperative ileus (POI). However, the efficacy remains imprecise for women following caesarean section.

Objectives

To summarise and evaluate the current evidence for postoperative gum chewing on the recovery of bowel function following caesarean section.

Search strategy

We searched studies from the following electronic databases: PubMed, EMBASE, SCOPUS and Cochrane Library from inception to 30 May 2013.

Selection criteria

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of women after caesarean section; these RCTs should compared gum chewing with no gum chewing and reported on at least one of the outcomes: time to flatus, time to bowel sound, time to passing stool and length of hospital stay (LOS).

Data collection and analysis

Study outcomes were presented as mean differences (for continuous data) with 95% confidence interval (95% CI). The risk of bias in the study results was assessed using the assessment tool from the Cochrane Handbook.

Main results

Six RCTs including 939 women were included in our meta-analysis. The pooled results demonstrated that gum chewing is superior to no gum chewing with a reduction of 6.42 hours (95% CI −7.55 to −5.29) for time to first flatus, 3.62 hours (95% CI −6.41 to −0.83) for time to first bowel sound, 6.58 hours (95% CI −10.10 to −3.07) for time to first stool and 5.94 hours (95% CI −9.39 to −2.49) for LOS. In addition, no evidence emerged for any side effects caused by gum chewing.

Conclusions

The current evidence suggests that gum chewing is associated with early recovery of bowel motility and shorter LOS for women after caesarean section. This safe and inexpensive intervention should be included in routine postoperative care following a caesarean section.