Frequently Asked Questions

I have tried everything for my child’s constipation problem—please help!

Constipation is a very frustrating problem for children and their parents. Physicians approach constipation differently. Some simply try diet with increased fiber and fluids. Others use laxatives to get the child going. Most doctors and parents are happy if they can get the bowels to be soft. The most common problem with treating constipation is the lack of education about why children become constipated and how to avoid the problem in the future. Constipation that is difficult to treat is usually not addressed from all the “angles” that are needed to really correct the problem long-term. Parents need to understand that constipated children will usually resist having a bowel movement now and in the future. Long-term treatment may be needed. Diet modifications are needed to avoid future problems, but initially a laxative is usually needed. In fact, laxative use may be needed long-term. Laxatives, if used carefully, are not usually harmful even if used for several months. Your child’s doctor can provide good advice on which laxatives to use (usually it does not matter), what dose is desired, and how long your child should take a laxative. Potty habits need to be addressed! The good news is that with well-educated parents and a treatment plan that addresses all of the issues, even the most frustrating constipation problem can be overcome. Our constipation handbook provides all of the information that you will need to start to correct your child’s problem. We are not aware of any other book that has been written (for parents) about childhood constipation.

My child’s stools appear to be soft, but he acts like it hurts to poop. What can be wrong?

Your child still may be constipated. Just because you see soft poops does not mean the stool upstream is not hard. You can only see what is coming out, not what is upstream. Also, your child may be straining to poop because he did not relax previously to allow the stool to move into the rectum. Simply said, some kids are confused about how to go. They will hold urine and stool throughout the day in order to avoid using the restroom. When they do go, they are unable to adequately relax when they need to. Children who strain just to urinate may be confused about how to relax. If your child is not constipated by your assessment, yet he hurts or acts like it is hard to poop, you should consider he is constipated. You should treat him as such and if your problem continues then consultation with your child’s doctor should be obtained. Maybe an x-ray will determine if significant stool is present upstream in the colon. Most likely, if you work on your child’s potty habits and treat for presumed constipation your child will improve.