Constipation is common and it affects people of all ages. You can usually treat it at home with simple changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Check if it's constipation
It's likely to be constipation if:
But it's not unusual for a breastfeeding baby to go a week without having a poo.
You may also have a stomach ache and feel bloated or sick.
Things to look out for in babies and toddlers include:
What causes constipation
Constipation in adults has many possible causes. Sometimes there's no obvious reason.
The most common causes include:
Constipation is also common during pregnancy and for 6 weeks after giving birth.
In much rarer cases, constipation may be caused by a medical condition.
Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can help treat constipation.
It's safe to try these simple measures when you're pregnant.
You may notice a difference within a few days. Sometimes it takes a few weeks before your symptoms improve.
Make changes to your diet
To make your poo softer and easier to pass:
Improve your toilet routine
Keep to a regular time and place and give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet.
Do not delay if you feel the urge to poo.
To make it easier to poo, try resting your feet on a low stool while going to the toilet. If possible, raise your knees above your hips.
Increase your activity
A daily walk or run can help you poo more regularly.
Babies and toddlers: what causes constipation
Constipation in babies and toddlers has many possible causes. Sometimes there's no obvious reason.
It usually happens when your child:
The most common causes include:
In much rarer cases, constipation in babies and toddlers may be caused by a medical condition.
Babies and toddlers: treating constipation
Simple changes to your child's diet and potty training can help treat constipation.
You may notice a difference within a few days.
Sometimes it takes a few weeks before their symptoms improve.
Make changes to your child's diet
If your baby is formula-fed, you can offer them extra drinks of water between feeds.
Do not add more water to formula feeds.
Breastfed babies rarely get constipated. They do not need anything but breast milk for the first 6 months.
Try gently moving your baby's legs in a bicycling motion or carefully massaging their tummy to help stimulate their bowels.
Give older children plenty of fluids and encourage them to eat fruit.
Chop or purée it if it's easier for them to eat. The best fruits for constipation include apples, grapes, pears and strawberries.
Do not force your child to eat as this can make mealtimes stressful.
Find out what to feed young children.
Helping your child with potty training
Some children feel anxious or stressed about using the toilet. This can cause them to hold in their poo and lead to constipation.
This usually happens during potty training or if their usual toilet routine has changed. For example, after moving house or starting nursery.
Give your child plenty of time to use the toilet while they're still learning.
Encourage them when they do use the toilet. Some parents find a reward chart works.
Try these potty training tips.
A pharmacist can help with constipation
Speak to a pharmacist if diet and lifestyle changes are not helping.
They can suggest a suitable laxative. These are medicines that help you poo more regularly.
Most laxatives work within 3 days. They should only be used for a short time.
Laxatives are not recommended for children unless they're prescribed by a GP.
Complications of long-term constipation
Long-term constipation can lead to faecal impaction. This is where poo has built up in your rectum.
The main symptom is diarrhoea after a long bout of constipation.
Faecal impaction may be treated with: