Enemas: Types, Procedure, Side Effects, and More

Types of Enemas

There are two main types of enemas: cleansing enemas and retention enemas.

Cleansing enemas are used to flush out the colon and are typically used before medical procedures, such as colonoscopies. Cleansing enemas typically contain water, saline, or soap.

Retention enemas are used to deliver medication or nutrients to the colon. Retention enemas typically contain medication, such as corticosteroids or laxatives, or nutrients, such as electrolytes or minerals.


To administer an enema, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Fill the enema bag with the prescribed solution.
  3. Hang the enema bag from a hook or doorknob at a height that is above your waist.
  4. Lubricate the tip of the enema nozzle with petroleum jelly or K-Y jelly.
  5. Lie on your left side with your knees bent.
  6. Insert the enema nozzle into your rectum gently.
  7. Release the clamp on the enema bag to allow the solution to flow into your colon.
  8. Once the solution has been administered, remove the enema nozzle and clamp it shut.
  9. Hold the solution in your colon for as long as possible, or as directed by your doctor.
  10. Once you feel the urge to defecate, go to the bathroom.

Side Effects

Enemas can cause some side effects, such as:

  • Cramping
  • Discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Electrolyte imbalance (rare)
  • Rectal bleeding (rare)

If you experience any of these side effects, stop using the enema and contact your doctor.


Enemas are generally safe and effective when used as directed. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before using an enema, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.

Here are some additional tips for using enemas safely:

  • Use only the amount of solution that is prescribed by your doctor.
  • Do not use enemas more often than directed by your doctor.
  • If you have any concerns about using an enema, talk to your doctor.