Constipation is generally defined as bowel movements that occur less than two or three times per week. Common symptoms include stools that are small and hard to pass, as well as abdominal discomfort. Most cases are improved with lifestyle changes, such as in diet, exercise, and bowel habits. In other cases, laxatives or other treatments may be needed.

Key Terms

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What relieves constipation?

    Constipation can be treated with fiber supplements, probiotics, laxatives, enemas, and prescription medications. The best way to avoid constipation is to consume a diet high in fiber. For fast relief, take an over-the-counter laxative. You can also try consuming a meal or snack of high-fiber foods, such as fruit, vegetables, beans, or drinking tea containing anise or fennel.

  • Why am I constipated?

    There are several common causes of constipation. The most likely include diet and medication use. Other possible causes include not consuming enough water, ignoring urges to use the bathroom, stress, changes in your normal routine, travel, and being sedentary.

  • When is constipation an emergency?

    Chronic constipation can lead to fecal impaction and incontinence. In severe cases, fecal impaction can cause stercoral ulcerations (rectal ulcers), intestinal obstruction, or bowel perforation. If left untreated, these complications can be life-threatening. If you experience blood in your stool, constant pain, vomiting, fever, or other concerning symptoms, seek immediate medical treatment.

  • Is constipation a sign of pregnancy?

    Constipation is one of the early symptoms of pregnancy, and it may also continue during pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, their body produces increased levels of the hormone progesterone, which can slow digestion and, in turn, cause constipation.