Chew Your Way to Faster Post-Cesarean Healing

Healthnotes Newswire (October 1, 2009)—You may think that chewing gum has nothing to do with birth by cesarean section, but you’d be mistaken. New research demonstrates that after giving birth by elective cesarean section, new moms can chew their way to a faster recovery and quicker return home. Since C-sections are increasingly common, any treatments that may reduce the costs of hospital stays and reunite families are welcome.

Gum and gut health

After any type of abdominal surgery, including a C-section, surgeons need to confirm that digestion is functioning normally. Bodily functions that are ordinarily ignored in polite interactions become important markers of health and healing. Once a surgical patient has bowel sounds, passes gas, and has a bowel movement, doctors can be sure that everything is moving through the gastrointestinal tract as it should.

In this study, researchers wanted to determine how chewing gum affects the amount of time it takes for a woman to show signs of normal bowel activity after an elective C-section to deliver a baby.

To study these questions, 200 women who had an elective Cesarean section were randomly selected to receive one of the following after surgery:

• Study treatment: One stick of sugarless gum for 15 minutes every 2 hours

• Traditional management: Clear fluids after first passing gas, followed by a regular diet after the first bowel movement

The researchers determined that compared to the traditional management group, the women in the gum-chewing group:

• Had their first bowel sounds an average of 4.7 hours earlier

• Passed gas an average of 6.5 hours earlier

• Had their first bowel movement 8.9 hours earlier

Of most interest, the women in the gum-chewing group were discharged from the hospital an average of 9.7 hours before the women in traditional management group.

Chewing after C-section

An earlier discharge can have advantages for both new moms and the healthcare system. An earlier release from the hospital gets women home with their new baby sooner, which is what most moms and their families really want. It allows women to begin establishing their new routine with their newborn as quickly as possible following birth. And an earlier discharge decreases costs associated with cesarean section birth.

This research confirms that sometimes, the “usual” way of doing things isn’t necessarily the best way. Simply chewing gum regularly after C-section is an inexpensive and effective way to provide concrete benefits to families.

(BJOG 2009;116:1334-9)

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by The New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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