As with many other surgeries, there are numerous post-operative concerns that come about after a cesarean section. If you go through a cesarean section, either by choice or by circumstances out of your control, there will be some recovery time necessary after the surgery. Although you’ll want to get home right away with your newest family member, your health care providers need to first be sure that your digestive tract has returned to its normal functioning state.

Cesarean sections tend to block off the passage for bowel movements, called postoperative ileus. Because the digestive system cannot carry out normal function, doctors put them on a strict and gradual feeding regimen. If you eat too much too quickly after surgery, you could exaggerate the blockage, which could cause serious problems. Serious bowel blockages could lead to longer hospitalization time, higher health care costs and even death.

Sham feeding, which is the process of chewing food but spitting it out before swallowing, has been a proven method to lessen the time needed for women’s bodies to restore digestive function more quickly after cesarean sections. A recent study even showed that women who chew gum after their cesarean section are more likely to experience normal bowel functions more quickly. If you get a cesarean section, your doctor will only release you once he is sure that you have either passed flatus, had normal intestinal sounds or have had regular bowel movements. Chewing gum is a safe and effective way to bring these on faster, which will get you and your baby home faster.

The reason chewing gum works to speed up digestive restoration is that it’s essentially tricking the body into preparing for food intake. If you were to actually eat normal food, your intestines might not be able to handle it right away. However, when you chew gum, you are essentially waking up your system and giving it time to get ready for its first real meal. While chewing real food would have the same effect, chewing gum is much more convenient and cost-effective than purchasing food only to spit it out.

Staying in the hospital for an extended period of time after your cesarean section can be frustrating and tiresome, not to mention costly. By chewing gum in the days after your operation, your recovery time will lessen and you’ll be able to go with your new bundle of joy sooner.

Source: KHI Abd-El-Maeboud et al: Gum Chewing Stimulates Early Return of Bowel Motility after Caesarean Section. International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology