Presse Santé

Why is it a bad idea to refrain from going to the bathroom?

Sometimes people need to defecate, but the timing is socially inappropriate or they are embarrassed to do so in a public place. While refraining from going to the bathroom from time to time is not dangerous, people who are in the habit of doing so may experience constipation or more serious complications.

People who refrain from going to the bathroom too often may start to lose their urge, which can lead to bowel incontinence. Other people may suffer from constipation. Constipation can be very uncomfortable and can lead to more serious problems. In this article, we discuss the risks associated with stool retention.

We don’t have to get in the habit of holding back

It is not dangerous to retain stool from time to time. Sometimes people are not near a bathroom or find themselves in a situation where going to the bathroom is not appropriate. Others are too shy to relieve themselves in a public place and prefer to wait until they get home.

According to a published article, children who suffer from constipation may develop a habit of holding stools to avoid painful stools. Some children can hold onto stools if toilet training is too difficult for them.

When people develop bowel retention behaviors, they put their health at risk. People should have a bowel movement when their body indicates the presence of stool in the rectum. Although the timing is not always right, doctors recommend defecating as soon as possible, as soon as the urge arises.

Why is it bad?

Avoiding bowel movements can lead to constipation. When this happens, the lower intestine absorbs water from the stool that collects in the rectum. Stools that contain less water are more difficult to pass because they harden. In more serious situations, this behavior can lead to incontinence or cause serious problems, such as fecal impaction (when a mass of hard, dry stool becomes lodged in the colon or rectum) or gastrointestinal perforation (a hole in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract ). ).

Holding in stool can also cause the rectum to become distended or stretched. If the person loses sensation within the rectum, which is called rectal hyposensitivity, he may experience episodes of incontinence. The author of a 2015 study suggests that a higher fecal load in the colon can increase bacteria counts and create long-term inflammation in the colon. This inflammation can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Research findings also suggest links between stool retention and appendicitis and hemorrhoids.

Children and stool retention

At birth, babies defecate involuntarily. When a child begins to learn to go to the bathroom, she learns to relieve herself at a socially acceptable time and to retain her stool when necessary. An earlier study suggests that toilet training complications occur in about 2-3% of children.

Some children may retain stool after being constipated. The memory of painful stools can lead to refusal to defecate. If the child continues to hold stool, the lower part of his colon will build up until it is full. With repeated restrictions, the child may lose his rectal sensations, which leads to irregularities in his impulse to do. When the rectum is full, softer stool can begin to flow around the accumulated stool. With reduced sensitivity, the child may involuntarily defecate.

How long can we go without defecating?

The bowel schedule varies from person to person. Some people have a bowel movement once every two days, while others have a bowel movement several times a day. The frequency of bowel movements depends on a person’s age and diet, but most people have between one and three bowel movements a day.

A change in bowel schedule may indicate constipation. These changes are subject to individual differences. For example, in people who usually have a bowel movement once every three days, a normal, well-formed bowel movement that occurs once a week may not require medical attention. People should defecate when their body indicates the need to defecate. If the time is not right, try to defecate as soon as possible.

There have been extreme case reports where stool retention due to constipation or physical exertion has led to serious complications. In another example published in BMJ Case Reports, a man was paralyzed in one leg and suffered from abdominal compartment syndrome (a life-threatening condition resulting from increased pressure in the abdomen) due to severe constipation.

When to see a doctor

Although it can be difficult to follow the progress of a young child’s stool, parents or caregivers should consult a pediatrician if they see signs of impacted stool in the child. Your pediatrician can help teach your child proper potty behaviors and habits.

People who suffer from constipation because they regularly retain stool can consult a pharmacist for advice on how to prevent constipation. Pharmacists can recommend the most appropriate over-the-counter laxatives. When a person loses rectal sensation, they need medical attention.


People may hold their bowel movements because the moment is socially inappropriate or because they are not near a bathroom. Occasional retention is not dangerous, but if it becomes a habit, it can have health effects. Constipation is common in people who hold back. Children who have suffered from constipation sometimes develop this holding behavior to avoid the pain associated with passing hard stools. In the most severe cases, people who chronically retain bowel movements may lose the sense of urgency to have a bowel movement or develop serious intestinal complications.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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