What is constipation?

Line drawing of the human body, showing backed-up stool in the intestines.
Constipation is when stools (poop) are hard, dry or difficult to pass. This picture shows stool that is backed up in the person’s intestines.

Constipation is when stools are hard, dry or difficult to pass. This can make passing stool uncomfortable or can make you want to delay or avoid using the bathroom.

Sometimes, you can pass loose stool around the hard stool that is stuck. We say someone is constipated when he or she has 1 of these signs:

  • Pooping fewer than 3 times a week
  • Stool that is hard, dry and small so it is difficult to pass
  • An X-ray that shows they are constipated

Why am I constipated?

People who have Down syndrome have lower muscle tone. This can make it harder for them to pass stool. You can become constipated for many other reasons.

Some of these reasons are:

  • Diet that is low in fiber
  • Lack of exercise
  • Certain medications
  • Ignoring the urge to pass stool
  • Other medical conditions, like celiac disease or untreated thyroid disease

What are the symptoms of constipation?

When you are constipated, the symptoms can be uncomfortable. You might have some of these symptoms:

  • Feeling full or bloated
  • Feeling pain when passing stool
  • Having to push hard when passing stool
  • Noticing a little blood on the toilet paper from straining
  • Having accidents with loose stool

How can I help ease my constipation?

There are a few ways you can help ease your constipation. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make sure your diet is high in fiber.
  • Make sure you are getting enough exercise.
  • Do not to ignore the urge to pass stool
  • Have your doctor go over your medications to see if any of them can cause constipation.
  • If you are very constipated, ask the doctor about an initial clean-out. This is when you take medication to ease constipation. Talk to the doctor before starting an initial clean-out.