One of the popular questions I’ve received is on the topic of children and constipation. Most parents experience the moments when their child accidentally pees or poops in their pants. But what about children who have issues going #2? What about the children who seemingly never feel like they have to poop? Or can’t poop? I can relate to this on a personal level. I was the child who never “had” to use the bathroom. It drove my parents crazy. They tried everything from bribes to forced toilet sitting time to “fix” it. Nothing worked because I was not consciously avoiding the bathroom. I just truly never felt like I had to. Fast forward to 30 years –and multiple pelvic and gastrointestinal issues later- I now work to provide the help to families that mine so desperately needed when I was little.
Is Your Child Constipated?
By age 4, a child should have 4-9 bowel movements each week. Childhood constipation accounts for as many as 30% of visits to pediatric gastroenterologists, and 3% of visits to general pediatric clinics. Some of the manifestations of constipation include straining, experiencing less than 3 bowel movements each week, having a feeling of incomplete emptying or blockage, and lumpy or hard stools. Your child may experience abdominal pain, bleeding and/or pain with bowel movements, lack of appetite, reflux, and changes in bladder frequency/incontinence. Fecal soiling may also occur with constipation. This happens when liquid stool passes around impacted stool.
Why Is It So important to Address Your Child’s Constipation?
Untreated constipation can lead to:
1.Megacolon – stretching out of the colon after holding too much stool, which can lead to fecal soiling
3.Anal fissures – tearing of skin around the anus
4.Rectal Prolapse – condition in which the last part of the large intestine telescopes through the anus
5.Impacts on social well-being – if your child is experiencing fecal soiling, you can bet their desire to participate in peer activities will be effected
6.Pelvic Floor Dysfunction – The pelvic floor is the “hammock” of muscles lining the bottom of the pelvis. As the pelvic floor muscles experience increased stressed with the load of constipation, the muscles become consistently tight. As a result, these muscles have difficulty relaxing,as needed during a typical bowel movement.
What Should You Do?
Untreated constipation paves the way for continued issues that can persist into adulthood. Consult with your doctor regarding any laxative recommendations or to see if a full bowel clean out is needed. However, laxatives alone will not break the habits contributing to your child’s constipation. Find a trained Pediatric Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist who can provide treatment services including bowel re-training, exercise, myofascial release, education of posture/breath, and biofeedback to re-educate pelvic floor muscles.
For more info on the pediatric pelvic physical therapy services we offer, click here: