After bowel surgery, some people may find it difficult to completely empty their bowel. Signs that your lower bowel may not be emptying completely can include:
- feeling there is still something in your bowel after you’ve passed a stool
- having smaller, pellet-like stools (fragmented)
- having leakage of stool after you go to the toilet
- needing to go back to the toilet several times after a bowel movement.
Try to hold off going to the toilet until the urge to pass a stool is strong. If this is difficult for you, we have some tips that may help you. For most people the best time to empty their bowel is about 30 minutes after a meal.
Straining to try to complete a bowel movement can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. This can cause problems with bowel control in future. If you have to wait for a long time after sitting down you may be going to the toilet too soon. Or it may be a sign that you’re constipated.
Sitting in the right position can help you to empty your bowels effectively. Lean forward a little and rest your elbows on your knees. Have your knees higher than your hips. It may help to place a small footstool or telephone book under your feet. Don’t strain or hold your breath. You may find using a relaxed breathing technique helps.
The diagram below shows the correct position:
Caution - if you have had recent hip surgery don’t use this position, and always check with your doctor first.
If you have constipation, include more fibre in your diet and eat more foods that encourage (stimulate) your bowel to empty.
Some people may need to take laxatives to stimulate their bowel as well as making changes to their diet. Your doctor or a continence adviser can advise you about laxatives.
Bowel motions that are too soft can also cause problems with incomplete emptying. Look at our suggestions on diet and anti-diarrhoeal medicines for help in dealing with this. If you still have difficulty emptying your bowel completely your specialist may recommend using suppositories, enemas or having bowel irrigation. Your doctor or a continence specialist can talk through these options with you and help you to decide which might suit you best.