Urgency and Fecal Incontinence – Written by Ellen Barnett
Fecal incontinence affects up to 13% of the population; and is something many people struggle to discuss. There are many things that can be done to help improve symptoms, so don’t suffer in silence.
How does it work? The rectum is a stretchy tube which will detect a stretch once faeces drops down into it. This automatically triggers an internal continence muscle to relax and your anal sphincter to tighten. You should feel a distinct urge to go. If your voluntary anal sphincter muscle is weak or lacks endurance you may find you struggle to make it to the bathroom on time when you have an urge to go.
Exercise. A women’s health physiotherapist can test the strength of the sphincter muscle to make sure it is giving you the support you need and help with the right exercises to improve the function of these muscles.
Not too soft, not too hard. Your stools should be soft enough to pass easily without straining and formed and solid enough so the muscles can hold onto them until you are ready. The Bristol Stool Chart describes this like a smooth sausage or snake (Type 4). Fibre, water and stool softeners can all help to adjust the consistency to the perfect poo, so speak to a relevant health professional about managing this.
Routine. Mass gut movements occur on waking and after eating, which is when you are most likely to feel an urge to open your bowels. Try and control your bowels by making a morning routine within an hour of waking and after eating. Respond to the urge to go. Once you have emptied your bowels, there is much less likelihood of having an accident or a near miss as your rectum is empty!