An enema is when a liquid is inserted through your anus (bottom) to the rectum.

Why it's needed

There are a few reasons why someone might need an enema. They include:

  • to relieve constipation
  • to clear the bowel before surgery or childbirth
  • as a way of giving medicines such as steroids

What happens

You will be taken to a private area where there will not be any interruptions and where there is a toilet nearby.

You will be asked to lie on your left hand side and to draw your knees up so that they are touching your chest.

The nurse or doctor will then insert the nozzle of the enema into your bottom and will squeeze the bottle so that the liquid is emptied out. You will then need to lie still for a while (the doctor or nurse will let you know how long for) and afterwards you will be able to go to the toilet.

The liquid will have softened your faeces (poo) so that you can go to the loo more easily.

If you have very bad constipation you may need a few enemas. However, they are only recommended for occasional use. If your constipation is bad, adjusting your diet is usually more effective.

Does it hurt?

No, this shouldn’t hurt at all. You may feel a bit embarrassed, but try to remember that doctors and nurses do this sort of thing everyday.

Compiled by:
Great Ormond Street Hospital
Last review date:
January 2014