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Constipation

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.

This page is about constipation in adults. There's separate information on constipation in babies and children.

It's likely to be constipation if:

You may also have a stomach ache and feel bloated or sick.

If you're caring for someone with dementia, constipation may be easily missed. It's important to be aware of any changes in their behaviour that might mean they are in pain or discomfort, although it's not always easy.

Read more about dementia behaviour changes

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.

Rarely, constipation may be caused by a medical condition.

Making 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:

Improving 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.

Consider increasing your activity

A daily walk or run can help you poo more regularly.

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.

Long-term constipation can lead to faecal impaction. This is where poo has built up in the last part of the large intestine (rectum).

The main symptom is diarrhoea after a long bout of constipation.

Faecal impaction may be treated with: