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Understanding Constipation in Children

Constipation is a fairly common condition in children and affects up to 25% of children at any time.


Signs your child is constipated may include:


  • Stools that are infrequent (<3 times/week)

  • Passing hard stools that may be painful

  • Straining

  • Stools that are very large in diameter

  • Abdominal pain

  • Soiling (poo accidents)

  • Trying to avoid or delay using the toilet (toilet refusal) and using behaviours to help them hold on, such as squatting down or crossing their legs


Constipation will sometimes begin with your child trying to hold onto their poo. This may occur after a negative, uncomfortable experience with passing a hard poo, where the child wishes to avoid experiencing this discomfort again. It may occur during toilet training, due to a fear of sitting on the toilet, or a change in routine such as the commencement of kinder or school and trying to delay doing the poo until they return home.


As the stool builds up in the rectum, it becomes firmer and the rectum will start to stretch. This can lead to a child experiencing a reduced sensation of the feeling of needing to do a poo. This can eventually lead to soiling (poo accidents).


Timely management of constipation is important, in order to prevent the future complications with toilet avoidance and soiling that can result.

Image by Markus Spiske

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