parenting encopresis

Parenting is a messy job. There is no avoiding that fact; it is just the way it is. In the first year, we spend our days changing soiled nappies, wiping up the occasional spills and refulxy possets – or even cleaning up the splattered mess of unwanted vegetables smeared all over the fridge and not to mention the hands and face of our dearly loved child(ren). (My 7-month old son has taken to doing this recently, particularly with the dreaded pumpkin!)

What happens though, when you have gone through all of the hard work involved with toilet training, and a little later your child starts regressing and you find yourself returning to the days of cleaning soiled underpants? Well, one possibility is that your child may be suffering from Encopresis.


‘Enco-what-is’? I hear you ask!

Recently I was writing an article for another one of my writing pursuits and I discovered an ailment that can be the bane of parents and children alike – Encopresis, which I decided is something I should more than definitely address on Parenting Prattle.

What it is:

Encopresis is basically faecal incontinence in children. It generally occurs in children aged between 3 and 7 years old, and is more likely to be a problem for boys then girls.

Interestingly enough, most children who suffer from Encopresis report to doctors and parents that they do not feel the urge or sensation of needing to poo.

What causes it?

The cause of Encopresis is almost always physiological. Often it can be a result of severe constipation.

What happens is often initially there maybe some pain involved in passing a stool, and so your child then becomes reluctant to poo. There can be other reasons that they are reluctant to ‘go’ including that they would rather play, or that they just can not wait long enough to spend the time needed on the toilet to make sure of all their ‘business’ is done.


Whatever the reason, the point is this – that your child is not going to the toilet.

So how does not going to the toilet result in encopresis?

Well, it is a bit of a nasty cycle really. What happens (this IS NOT very pretty stuff to describe, let alone read, so if you are squeamish, TURN AWAY NOW!) is this:

The child’s inability or unwillingness to go to the toilet results in something known as faecal retention.

This leads to the large intestine becoming stretched, and its contents being compacted, which actually decreases is sensitivity to the stimulation from the nervous system that results in a person feeling the urge to poo. (Hence why children suffering from this say they didn’t realise they needed to go).

From there, the runny stuff from the small intestine can leak out around the contents compacted inside the large intestine (I told you this wasn’t pretty) and initially it may appear to parents that the child just is not wiping their bottom properly.

Eventually what happens is that the child will experience involuntary bowel movements, though the frequency and severity differs between children; with some children it happens once every few days, while it may happen to others at many times throughout the same day.

Because this post is getting incredibly large, I’m going to split it in two, and discuss where to go if you suspect your child has encopresis and the common methods used to treat it.

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