JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Interventions for treating postpartum constipation

Eunice B Turawa, Alfred Musekiwa, Anke C Rohwer
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, (9): CD010273
25246307

BACKGROUND: Constipation is a functional bowel disorder that can reduce quality of life in the puerperium period. The diagnosis of postpartum constipation is both subjective and objective. It is characterised by symptoms such as pain or discomfort, straining, hard lumpy stools and a sense of incomplete bowel evacuation. Haemorrhoids, pain at the episiotomy site, effects of pregnancy hormones and hematinics used in pregnancy can increase the risk of postpartum constipation. Although a high fibre diet and increased fluid intake is encouraged to assist defecation in the puerperium, pain-relieving drugs and laxatives are common drugs of choice to alleviate constipation. However, the effectiveness and safety of laxatives on the nursing mother need to be ascertained.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for treating postpartum constipation.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (28 March 2014), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials, the US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register (ClinicalTrials.gov), the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR), the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry platform (ICTRP), the ProQuest database, Stellenbosch University database and Google Scholar (28 March 2014). We also searched the reference lists of potentially relevant studies identified by the search, reviewed articles for relevant trials and contacted experts to identify any additional published or unpublished trials (10 April 2014).

SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised controlled trials comparing any intervention for the treatment of postpartum constipation to another intervention, placebo or no intervention.Interventions could include laxatives, surgery, as well as educational and behavioural interventions.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently screened the results of the search to select potentially relevant studies using pre-designed eligibility inclusion criteria. Discrepancies were resolved through discussion. We did not identify any studies for inclusion.

MAIN RESULTS: We did not identify any studies that met our inclusion criteria. We excluded nine studies.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We could not make explicit conclusions on interventions for treating postpartum constipation because we found no studies for inclusion in this review. Rigorous and well-conducted large randomised controlled trials aimed at treating postpartum women diagnosed with constipation would be beneficial. These trials should also address the criteria for administering the intervention (time and stage of a diagnosis of postpartum constipation), and the safety and effectiveness of such interventions.

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