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Fecal Incontinence… the stuff no one talks about

According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, fecal incontinence is the recurrent and involuntary loss of stool or flatus (gas). Often times one of the main causes post partum is obstetric trauma or pudendal nerve injury.

Different studies have shown at least 1 in 4 women having fecal incontinence within 6 months of child-birth. 25% is a pretty high number and that is only what has been reported, so then why does no one hear about this and most people have no clue!

It’s already bad enough that women struggle with issues of urinary incontinence which in itself still has yet to gain the respect for what it is and it’s effect on society but instead it has been normalized and relegated to something that women should just “deal with”.

Truth be told, how many of YOU would be willing to divulge such information if you were being plagued with such an issue? Think of the social isolation these women feel. They wouldn’t want to go into public for fear of being malodorous. They may start to shy away from social activities, events, their life as they knew it… I mean this could turn the most extroverted individual into the epitome of a “house mouse”!

And let’s not forget SEX!!! Come on now… we’re all doing it! And the last thing you want to think about is “pooing” during sex. The embarrassment… the shame… am I painting a clear picture for you.

This is real! This happens to many women and can have such a tremendously negative impact on their lives and the saddest thing is they have no control. One of the main functions of your pelvic floor muscles is sphincteric, as in they control the sphincters of the bowel and bladder. Think of the knobs that control the flow of water out of your faucet at the sink. If they are broken, there is no “turning the faucet off”.

While this article is somewhat directed to post partum bowel incontinence, it should be noted that some research sites anywhere from 6-10% of men are affected and as much as 15% of the general population of older women. Two nursing home articles have cited a 45-47% prevalence among residents and so whether bowel or urinary, incontinence on a whole could very well be one of the leading causes of qualifying patients for nursing homes.

Bowel health is very important and bowel incontinence, just like urinary incontinence can be treated and is treatable. If this is happening to you, please contact a pelvic floor physical therapist to have this assessed and treated so that you can start to reclaim your life.


National Institutes of Health State-of-the-Science Conference Draft Statement. Prevention of Fecal and Urinary Incontinence in Adults. December 12, 2007

Dey AN. Characteristics of elderly nursing home residents; data from the 1995 National Nursing Home Survey. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no. 289. Hyattsville, Maryland; National Center for Health Statistics 1997

Nelson R, Furner S, Jesudason V. Fecal Incontinence in Wisconsin Nursing Homes. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum Vol. 41, No. 10 October 1998

Guise, Jeanne-Marie MD, MPH; Morris, Cynthia PhD, MPH; Osterweil, Patricia; Li, Hong MD, MSPH; Rosenberg, Deborah; Greenlick, Merwyn PhD. Incidence of Fecal Incontinence After Childbirth. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: February 2007- Vol 109, Issue 2, pg 281-288


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