Constipation is a very common condition that affects people of all ages including babies and children. It is a term used when there is lack of, or difficulty passing bowel movments (also known as poo, faeces, and stools). It can be caused by not eating enough fibre or drinking enough water. It can also be a side effect of certain medications including some types of pain relief.

Normal bowel habits vary from person to person, adults will usually pass a stool once a day or sometimes even once every 2-3 days. Whereas some babies can pass stools numerous times a day and some only a few times a week.

Symptoms of constipation include:

  • Passing a dry, hard or lumpy stool
  • An abnormally large stool
  • An abnormally small stool
  • Complete absence of stool for longer than normal
  • Abdominal pain/ cramps
  • Feeling bloated
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

Children and babies who experience constipation may also experience:

  • Lack of energy
  • Being irritable unhappy/crying and or angry
  • Foul smelling wind and stools
  • Feeling unwell

There are other factors that can increase chances of constipation such as:

  • A change in routine or lifestyle, such as changing eating habits
  • Not having enough privacy when using the toilet
  • Ignoring the urge to pass a stool
  • Lack of exercise or immobility
  • Being under weight or over weight
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Psychological problems that have been brought on by sexual abuse, violence or trauma.
  • Taking certain medication such as antidepressants, iron supplements, codeine found in some pain killers and more
  • Being pregnant, due to the increase in the production of the female hormone progesterone which is a muscle relaxant, which relaxes the muscles that line the bowel therefore slowing the process of passing a stool.

Constipation very rarely causes any complications. However if it develops into a long term problem, there is an increased risk of experiencing complications such as:

  • Haemorrhoids – swollen vessels that form in the lower rectum and anus- that can cause pain, swelling and bleeding
  • Faecal impaction – dried hard stools collect in your rectum and anus
  • Psychological effects – very common in children who experience constipation

* The contents of this condition is for information purposes only.