Encopresis: How to help your child when they have no control of their bowel movements

Encopresis, which is also referred to as fecal incontinence, is a condition that causes an individual to pass stool while they're clothed. This often develops in children who are older than 4 years of age, when they already know how to use the toilet.

Oftentimes, encopresis happens involuntarily, and it usually happens when stool has become impacted within the rectum and colon. Essentially, the colon gets too full as a result of chronic constipation, so liquid stool ends up leaking out. Over time, there could be loss of control of bowel movements when the distention in the bowels becomes severe.

How to Help a Child with Encopresis

To treat encopresis in a child, you should seek help from your doctor. Avoid punishing your child or humiliating him or her. Keep in mind that this is a complex and chronic condition that is curable. You shouldn't blame your child, making him or her feel guilty, because that could contribute to even lower self-esteem and it could end up aggravating the situation.

Many parents use reward systems or behavior modification systems that will encourage their children to have regular bowel movements and toilet habits. You can give your child a small reward for every day that passes during which he or she doesn't have an inappropriate bowel movement, as an example.

If your efforts don't help, there could be other emotional or behavioral difficulties at play. In those cases, your child might benefit from psychological counseling that will help him or her cope with things like low self-esteem, academic hardships, and conflicts with peers. Those stressors could cause or worsen encopresis, so tackling them is important.

A Multi-Phase Treatment Approach

The first phase of treatment will usually involve the emptying of the colon and rectum of any retained, hard stool. Your doctor might prescribe medications, stool softeners, enemas, or laxatives, to successfully empty out the colon and relieve the child of constipation.

Once the large intestine is empty of stool, your doctor can begin helping your son or daughter have regular bowel movements. Often, stool softening products that are safe and non-habit forming can be used consistently in order to bring the bowels back down to a normal size.

The final stage of treatment will involve scheduling bathroom time after a meal twice a day for your child. You can have your son or daughter sit on the toilet for 5-10 minutes in order to teach him or her how to pay attention to any urges that arise for going to the bathroom.

Once your child has established a routine of having regular bowel movements, the use of the stool softeners will be minimized.

Remain Patient and Consistent

To help your child overcome encopresis, you can explain how the digestive system works and what is contributing to this condition. Once your child has an understanding of what is happening in his or her body, working closely with your doctor and being consistent in your efforts will yield the best results.

Encopresis can be difficult for parents and their children, but it is a problem that is treatable and solvable, so don't lose hope.