Is your child suffering from day or nighttime wetting? Have they been struggling with going to the bathroom regularly? Let’s talk about constipation and how it can affect your child’s bowel and bladder.

Constipation in children is when they have fewer than two bowel movements per week. Their stool/faeces may be hard, dry or lumpy making it harder for them to pass. This happens when too much water is absorbed from the stool, due to slow muscle movements in the large intestine. It is important to get on top of constipation in children quickly as one bout of constipation can take 6-12 months to fully resolve. In some cases, it can take up to 2 years for your child’s bowels to return to normal!

Reasons why constipation can occur:

  • Diet: a diet too high in fat and low in fiber
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of exercise: exercise can help move the stool through the intestines.
  • Avoiding public bathrooms or holding on for too long
  • Stress at school or with friends and family
  • Forget to go or don’t listen to their body’s signals.
  • Physical problems such as: problems with the intestinal tract/rectum/anus, nervous system problems ie Cerebral Palsy, medications

Once a child has suffered constipation or has had a painful bowel motion this may lead to them avoiding the toilet altogether. If you notice your child withholding from using the bathroom it is important to address the issue sooner rather than later. The longer your child holds their stool the more water is absorbed in the intestine and the harder it will be to pass.  Additionally, the longer the stool spends in the bowels the intestinal wall can stretch. If they spend too much time stretching, they may begin to not sense when there is stool, and your child will not experience a sensation to open their bowels.

For some children going to the bathroom can be a sensory overload experience.  Either being painful in the past, not liking the sensation and not liking the feeling of toilet paper can be reasons why your child avoids using the bathroom. It is important to investigate the sensory components just as much as the physical. In these cases, OT and physiotherapy may be a helpful tool to educate strategies on how to open your bowels properly.

In addition to Physiotherapy and OT if your child has been identified as having significant constipation it is recommended that you talk to your family GP. Your GP may suggest an abdominal x-ray to see if there is a stool in the intestines. If your child is found to have “fecal loading” your GP will work with you and may suggest the use of laxatives to help treat your child’s constipation.

Physiotherapy and Paediatric Constipation

The physiotherapists at Bump Fitness have undergone training in how to help with your child’s toileting. We can offer training and education on ways to help avoid constipation moving forwards. One thing we educate our families on is the importance of posture when pooing.

Tips on how do Poo

  • Using a poo stool can be an effective way to align the bowels for easy passing aiming for Knees above hips.
  • Allowing your abdomen to relax and not tense will assist the muscles of your pelvic floor to fully relax.
  • Use breath or “Moo” sound to help pass stool.

Working with your child’s multidisciplinary team is important for your child’s pelvic health in the long term. Continence Australia will also offer amazing resources and interviews with industry professionals to help in your child’s continence journey.

If you are concerned about your child and their toileting behaviors or your child is having difficulties with toilet training or incontinence, reach out to us today for an assessment.

References

Continence Australia. School Resources. Webinars. https://www.continence.org.au/toilet-tactics/research

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Constipation in Children. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-in-children