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Constipation means that the bowel is healthy but not working properly. Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. Stools are usually hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Some children who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating and the sensation of a full bowel.
In most cases, the cause of constipation is functional; in other words, there is no physical abnormality causing constipation. Some children experience functional constipation for the following reasons:
The good news is that, most of the time, constipation in childhood is not serious.
Symptoms of constipation include:
Children with constipation may pass a large amount of liquid stool, even if they are not sick. Parents may misinterpret this as diarrhea.
If your child has symptoms of constipation, a pediatric gastroenterologist will talk with you and your child and complete one or more of the following exams and tests to confirm a diagnosis:
There are four equally important parts of treating children with constipation:
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about constipation.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition Department at Riley at IU Health is involved in research for constipation. If you would like to learn more, please ask your child's provider about available research opportunities.