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The Most Common Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Women

Common Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Women

Bowel incontinence (or fecal incontinence) is an issue especially prevalent among women, and it occurs when the body loses control over its own bowel movements. This causes stool leakage and accidents that may feel embarrassing, inconvenient, and it can significantly affect the quality of life. Learn the causes, how common it is, and many helpful solutions to address the issue. 

Causes of Bowel Incontinence in Women 

There are many causes of bowel incontinence in females that are both common and not so common, with age being the biggest factor. 

Common Causes

  • Childbirth: For decades after giving birth, women who have delivered a baby vaginally (especially through assisted delivery) have more of a risk of fecal incontinence than those who do not. This happens when the muscles and tissues of the rectum are stretched or torn, or when the anal sphincter becomes damaged from delivery. 
  • Constipation: Another leading cause of bowel incontinence, being constipated could eventually lead to fecal impaction (where a large stool is stuck in the rectum), which weakens muscles, causing watery stools to leak out. Repeated straining could also lead to rectal prolapse. 
  • Diarrhea: Because watery stools are harder to control, you can experience fecal incontinence when sick or while experiencing bouts of diarrhea. Those who have chronic diarrhea will have a much higher likelihood of experiencing bowel incontinence.
  • Aging: Fecal incontinence is most common among people 65 and older. This is due to a weakening and thinning of the rectal muscles and tissues, neurological diseases (such as dementia), and poor mobility to be able to get to the bathroom in time.

      Less Common Causes 

      • Surgery-related causes: Rectal scarring from surgery or radiation therapy can prohibit the rectum from stretching, allowing stool to leak out. Rectal prolapse can also cause bowel incontinence. 
      • Diseases & disorders: Conditions such as IBS, Crohn's Disease, and ulcerative colitis cause diarrhea, which raises the chance of experiencing fecal incontinence. 
      • Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, laxatives, some cancer medications, and many more may cause diarrhea that could lead to fecal incontinence.
      • Diet & lifestyle: Any foods or beverages that speed up the time to go to the bathroom usually cause diarrhea and put people at a greater risk of fecal incontinence — the worst offenders being caffeine and alcohol. 

          Getting Evaluated and Diagnosed 

          If you or a loved one are experiencing bowel incontinence and are wondering where to turn, the first crucial step to take is to consult with your healthcare provider. Many women do not seek professional help and suffer alone when experiencing bowel incontinence, so this first step is important.

          Your doctor may ask you questions about your condition and perform a physical exam to see if the anus is functioning properly and to assess any nerve damage. Tests may include a digital rectal exam, balloon expulsion test, colonoscopy, or other various assessments

          Tips for Women Managing Bowel Incontinence

          You may wonder: will my incontinence issue ever get better? The answer is yes, with the right treatments and products. 

          • Improving stool quality: Practicing regulating your stool consistency will reduce the risk of leakage. Eat foods that do not cause diarrhea and choose medications to help with chronic diarrhea or constipation issues. Fiber supplements can increase your stool bulk. 
          • Physical therapy: For cases involving nerve damage from childbirth or surgery, studies have shown that physical therapy can help control fecal incontinence
          • Surgery: For those with rectal prolapse, surgery may be a good solution (after discussing it with your doctor). 
          • Incontinence products: Adult pads, diapers, briefs, and underwear can significantly improve your confidence and stress level when dealing with incontinence. It’s also great for those who want to live their active lives normally without feeling embarrassed or held back. 
          • Maintain good hygiene: For those who experience bowel incontinence, it’s important to retain good hygiene by bathing regularly, using wipes or purchasing a bidet. 

          Best Bowel Incontinence Products to Consider

          If you’re looking for bowel incontinence products, Parentgiving can help. Here are some of the top underwear options for both men and women:

          • Dry Direct Ultimate Protective Underwear: These diapers are our highest rated and most popular fecal incontinence option, offering maximum absorbency, leak-proof security, and comfort for day and night use up to 10 hours. 
          • MoliCare Slip Maxi Overnight Adult Brief: These are designed for extended use and overnight wear, featuring a tape-on design for added security and absorbency. They offer a cloth-like feel with plastic backing and odor control, making them a comfortable and reliable choice for those struggling with bowel control.
          • Tranquility Premium OverNight Absorbent Underwear: This option ensures a comfortable fit with its super-absorbent, breathable fabric and full-rise waist panel. It also includes Kufguards® to channel waste into the core, which is ideal for accidental bowel leakage.

          How Parentgiving Can Help 

          Going through bowel incontinence issues at any age can feel isolating, lonely, and embarrassing. We’re here to tell you that it is common, and with the right products, you’ll feel like yourself again. We've curated a selection of the best absorbent adult briefs, pads, and other medical supplies for bowel incontinence to make it easy to find everything you need in one convenient place. Explore our options and choose the best products for you.