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Constipation and Soiling

Constipation and Soiling

How do Bowels Work?

Your bowel is a long muscular tube that moves and empties faeces (poo). The opening of the bowels is called the anus. Pelvic floor and sphincter muscles control the opening and closing of the anus. Nerves also send messages between your bowels, muscles and brain to let the brain know when it is time to empty.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is when your bowel motions are less frequent, you are having trouble passing bowel motions or they are too hard and dry. Constipation is common and occurs at some time in over 25% of children.

Symptoms may include: discomfort when toileting, passing only small amounts at a time, and the feeling of ‘incomplete emptying’ when you leave the toilet. Other signs of constipation include pain, cramps or abdominal swelling. It is possible to be constipated even if you pass a bowel motion every day, as the bowel may not empty completely when you are on the toilet.

Severe constipation is actually the most common cause of soiling, or faecal incontinence. This is because hard bowel motions are difficult to pass and may cause a partial blockage high up in the bowel. When this happens, watery bowel motions often flow around the constipated stool without warning. This is sometimes mistaken for diarrhoea.

Constipation can also affect bladder control. Daytime wetting and urinary frequency can be worsened if constipation is involved. An over-full bowel (due to constipation) can press on your bladder, reducing the amount of urine your bladder can hold or making you feel like you need to pass urine urgently. Constipation can also affect your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle strength and coordination is important for both bladder and bowel control.

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation can occur for many reasons. It often occurs when your colon (part of your digestive system) absorbs too much water from your bowel motions. This may occur because:

  • Your food moves through your digestive system too slowly
  • Your bowel motions stay in your rectum (the end of your digestive system) too long
  • The muscles that control the opening and closing of the anus are not coordinated, preventing the full emptying of bowel contents
  • Your bowel function has been influenced or altered by your diet

This can result in your bowel motions becoming too dry and hard, or your bowel motions not emptying regularly. If left untreated, chronic constipation may result in long term damage and the development of poor bowel habits.

When parents are doing all of the right things but their child is still scared, hesitant or avoiding using the toilet, it can be very frustrating. A common thing we hear from parents is that their child’s toileting withholding behaviours start suddenly and they don’t know what is causing it.

This was the situation with Andrew, who was 4 years old. When he was younger his mother can remember him occasionally having some firm poos. But there were no obvious signs of constipation or other issues that caused her concern.

As he got older, Andrew’s mother tried to toilet train him and was successful with wees but could never seem to get the poos sorted. Andrew would often hide behind the couch or in his room when he needed to do a poo, and he would only poo in his nappy or undies- refusing to sit on the toilet. If his parents tried, he would either scream and cry, or if he did sit on the toilet, nothing would happen. Andrew’s parents were at their wits end, unsure if they were doing something wrong and unsure how to help their son.

How can Mars Clinic help?

At the Mars Clinic, we help parents with professional advice, tailored to your child’s specific problem. We offer:

  • Objective assessment of the problem and its potential causes
  • Information that you can trust
  • Strategies that suit your family life
  • Adaptable solutions to help you through the whole journey
  • Non-judgmental advice
  • Support, validation and reassurance

Hannah is one of our many kids that has been diagnosed with constipation from when she was a baby. Hannah is now 6 years old. It has always taken a lot of time and energy from her parents – remembering to give her the medication she needs, tracking when she goes to the toilet, making sure she’s not getting worse. The family’s morning routine is already hurried and this adds extra stress and tension on the whole family. Hannah doesn’t like taking the medication and the constant talk about poo, and at times she is resistant and doesn’t want to do what her parents ask of her.

Having dealt with this for so long, her parents are tired and exhausted by the multiple medical appointments with still no clear answer as to why Hannah is still having soiling accidents daily.

Our approach to treatment involves:
Understanding the problem and how it’s impacting your family
Tests and scans in our clinic
Home-based recordings
Diagnosis of the causes and contributing factors
Creating an Action Plan for treatment
Supporting you through your journey

What makes us different?

Mars Clinic is recognised as the Australian leader in the treatment of incontinence for children and adolescents.

  • Australia’s largest team of trained professionals
  • Internationally recognised as Best Children’s Bladder Control & Treatment Specialists

With our non-invasive, cutting-edge technologies, we are able to provide advanced diagnostic and treatment services at our in-person clinics. These include:

  • Scans and measurements, using diagnostic ultrasound and uroflowmetry, to determine how well the bladder and bowel hold and empty
  • Muscle activity measurement, using urodynamics and EMG biofeedback, to test how well pelvic muscles coordinate during toileting
  • TENS treatment to help children learn to feel and recognise bladder and bowel sensations
  • Specialised biofeedback treatment, based on children’s video games, to help children learn correct pelvic muscle control

We are here to help!

Come into our local clinics, or Online anywhere


UQ Health Care – Annerley
Level 4, PACE Building (street level) 20 Cornwall Street

P. 07 3346 1768
F. 07 3392 2611


Woolworths Brookwater Village
Mater Health Centre
16/2 Tournament Drive

P. 07 3199 3211
F. 07 3199 3220

South Brisbane

Mater Medical Centre
Suite 40, Level 7
293 Vulture Street

P. +617 3163 1188
F. +617 3163 1192
E. mail@marsclinic.com.au

mars online

P. 07 3163 1188

A team you can trust

We are very proud of our large team of Mars Clinic professionals.

  • Registered physiotherapists
  • Additional training in pelvic health (adults and children)
  • Completed our Advanced Practice Mars Clinic Training Program
  • Completed assessment competencies in Functional Ultrasound, EMG Biofeedback, use of TENS Modulation therapy
  • Attend our regular ongoing Mars Clinic training, including education meetings with Paediatric Specialists

Mars Clinic Mission Control Team Members

Physiotherapy Team

Administrative Team

We are here to help!

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