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Bowel incontinence is termed as an individual’s inability to control his/her bowel movement that further causes stools to pass unexpectedly from the rectum. This is also called faecal incontinence and it varies from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to an extent where the individual faces complete loss over his/her bowel control. Common causes of bowel incontinence are constipation, muscle or nerve damage (this may be the result of ageing or giving birth) or diarrhoea.

An individual can face bowel incontinence temporarily during a periodic stretch of diarrhoea but for some it can be severely chronic or recurring. Apart from this, the second type of bowel incontinence is faced by individuals who are unaware of the need to pass the stool, a condition called passive incontinence. Bowel incontinence can be accompanied by other bowel conditions such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.


Bowel incontinence can be the result of multiple causes in an individual. This includes:

  • Muscle damage: This can take place during childbirth especially when forceps are used during delivery, or if one has an episiotomy.

  • Constipation: Chronic constipation can lead to dryness and the formation of a hard mass of stool in the rectum which becomes too large to pass. In a few cases, chronic constipation causes nerve damage, resulting in bowel incontinence.

  • Nerve damage: At times bowel incontinence can take place because of nerve damage where the related nerves whose task it is to sense stool in the rectum or control the anal sphincter, lose their functioning.

  • Rectocele: This is common in a woman where the rectum protrudes through the vagina causing bowel incontinence.

  • Diarrhoea: Compared to loose stool, solid stool can be retained more effectively in the colon and rectum. This means loose stools witnessed during diarrhoea can cause or worsen the existing condition of bowel incontinence.

Addressing Bowel Incontinence

Various risk factors can potentially boost the risk of developing bowel incontinence which includes age, nerve damage, physical disability, being female or dementia. However, depending on the cause in the individual, bowel incontinence can be improved or prevented with measurable actions. This includes:

  • Increase physical activity with a healthy diet of high-fibre food and plenty of fluid to reduce constipation.

  • Rectifying the cause of diarrhoea such as intestinal infection could help one steer clear of bowel incontinence.

  • The body faces strain during bowel movements which weakens the anal sphincter muscle or damages the nerves that cause bowel movement. So straining has to be avoided as much as possible.

If you are facing bowel incontinence for a while, do contact our experts at Motherhood Hospitals. Our team of specialists is well equipped to investigate the cause and advise on how to manage the condition through a proper diet, exercise and medication ensuring you lead a comfortable and active life.



Dr. Kavya Krishna Kumar

Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Alwarpet, Chennai

Dr. Sireesha Reddy

Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Bangalore, Hebbal

Dr. Aarthi Bharat

Consultant - Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Banashankari, Bangalore

Dr. Dhanalakshmi R

MBBS, DNB (Pediatric), MRCP CH, Followership in Neonatal Neonatal medicine(UK), PGPN (Boston university,USA), IPPN, ACLP
Consultant - Paediatrician and Neonatologist
Bangalore, HRBR Layout