Yes - it has become my reality. As a pelvic floor physiotherapist, for all populations, I talk about bowel movements. A lot. Just ask my kids, my husband and my clients. But the reason being is it lends a lot of information on the health of our foundation - the pelvic floor!
Constipation in Kids
Recently I gave a talk about conditions I see in the pediatric population and constipation or retention of stool came up as a topic. Especially after children become potty trained and we stop going to the washroom, we lose track of what our kids our are doing on a daily basis when it comes to bathroom habits. That being said, even as a child is potty training, it is important to know what a bowel movement is looking like. Reason being, even though a child may be having a bowel movement daily, they may be constipated! How you may ask?? It is how the bowel movement looks!
Signs A Child is Constipated
There are a few common things that may not seem obvious when seeing if a child is having difficulty with bowel movements.
- Extra large "Holy Cow" poops - a sign that the rectum has stretched out over time due to prolonged constipation, turning the rectum into a "holding" vessel rather than a sensory organ, signalling when it is time to empty the bowel. These types of bowel movements may actually plug a toilet!
- Firm poops - what we call the Type 1 and Type 2 poops, that look like pellets, or a bunch of grapes. It is ideal to see a long snake
- Belly pains - too much stool retention can create a stomach
- Frequent urination - a sign that the bowel is pushing on the bladder and taking up space in the bladder, so it has difficulty retaining fluid
- Incontinence - either urine or bowel related - a child will have difficulty interpreting what they are feeling when they are constipated, leading to events where they are unable to make it to a washroom
- Body odour or frequently passing gas
- Loose stools or diarrhea - a sign that the bowel is unable to soak up anymore fluid, so it bypasses or goes around the constipated stool in the rectum.
So why or how can a child become constipated? Kids are funny things in that if the bathroom looks unpleasant or they feel embarrassed to do something, they may not do it. Usually they do not feel the need to stop playing and use the washroom. Also, hydration plays a huge factor - the more dehydrated a child or person is, the more likely they will become constipated. Of course, this is only a small list of reasons, as there can be many more and potentially complex reasons, but it lends the idea that caregivers can help! For example, a child should consume 1 ounce of water for every kilogram of weight. So a 24kg child would drink 24 ounces of water or 3 cups per day! What usually helps is a reminder for the child - before you go play, at recess, after recess, after you go to the washroom, have a drink of water. A couple ounces a time, multiple times a day will go a long way!
If anything to take away from this write up, it is be open to talking with your kids about their bowel habits! A little conversation can go a very very long way. And if issues are happening, believe it or not, Physiotherapy Can Help!
~ Michelle, PT