Gum chewing and gastrointestinal function following caesarean delivery: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Clin Nurs. 2015 Jul;24(13-14):1795-804. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12836. Epub 2015 Apr 7.


Aims and objectives: The aims of this systematic review and meta-analysis were to summarise current knowledge regarding gum chewing intervention for activation of the gastrointestinal (GI) system following caesarean delivery.

Background: GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and defecatory difficulties are bothersome for women following a caesarean delivery. There is category A recommendation to not withhold oral intake postoperatively. However, current practice guidelines vary widely on time to initiate oral feeding post caesarean delivery, and additional research is needed. Gum chewing has been shown to stimulate the GI system in other postoperative patient populations.

Design: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Methods: An electronic review was undertaken using the following resources: PubMed (Medline), CINAHL, EMBASE and databases. Key words used in various combinations included cesarean section; cesarean delivery; postoperative chewing gum; bowel movement; bowel function and complications.

Results: A total of 171 articles were found of which 166 were excluded: 157 were duplicates and the remainder did not meet the inclusion criteria. Five randomised control trials were included in the meta-analysis, focusing on gum chewing as an intervention as compared with a nongum chewing intervention, with a total of 846 participants. Compared with the nongum chewing group, gum chewing showed a beneficial impact on the major outcomes of digestive system activation, including bowel sound, gas passage and defecation.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis supports the effectiveness of gum chewing post caesarean delivery as a noninvasive/nonpharmacological intervention for reactivation of bowel movement.

Relevance to clinical practice: Gum chewing in the immediate postoperative period following caesarean delivery may provide a socially acceptable, low-cost and safe intervention to reduce postcaesarean delivery GI complications and restore GI function.

Keywords: caesarean delivery; early oral intake; gastrointestinal function; gum chewing; meta-analysis; nonpharmacological intervention; postoperative complications; randomised controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / adverse effects*
  • Chewing Gum*
  • Constipation / etiology
  • Constipation / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / etiology
  • Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting / prevention & control*
  • Pregnancy


  • Chewing Gum