Constipation means being unable to move your bowels, having to
push harder to move your bowels, or moving them less often than
usual. Bowel movements will be small, dry, and hard.
Constipation happens when you get less exercise, or when you eat
and drink less than usual. Some medicines cause constipation.
Constipation can cause pain and discomfort. Keeping your bowel
routine regular and your bowel movements easy to pass is
important. Your bowels should move every day with little or no
strain. You are at risk for constipation if you have a:
- Decrease in the amount you eat and drink each day
- Decrease in your activity or exercise
- Medication that causes constipation
- Cancer that causes pressure on your bowel or changes in
the way your bowel works
Learning Needs You need to know how to prevent
constipation and, if constipation happens, to manage it before
it gets severe. Write down when you move your bowels and if
there are changes in your normal bowel movements. Have the notes
with you when you call or come for care.
Prevention You can help prevent constipation if you:
- Drink several glasses of fluid each day.
- Eat foods that are high in dietary fiber
- Exercise daily. If you are unable to increase your
exercise, tighten and relax the muscles in your abdomen and
move your legs often while sitting or in bed.
- Take medications as instructed to prevent constipation.
- Try to move your bowels at your usual times. Many people
find that after breakfast is a good time to try to have a
- Avoid using the bedpan if possible. A natural position on
the toilet or on a commode is best.
- Tell your doctor or nurse about things that have worked
for you in the past to prevent constipation.
1. Using medications to prevent constipation: Preventing and
managing constipation are easy when you work together with your
health care provider. You may need to increase or decrease doses
of medicine to achieve easy and regular bowel movements.
2. Once you begin to have regular bowel movements, use the
morning and evening doses of medicines you were taking when you
had a bowel movement as your regular dose of medicine for your
3. If you are unsure of what to do, please call.
Follow-up If you are having trouble with your bowel
movements, call your doctor or nurse. Be ready to tell them the
1. When you last had a bowel movement
- Was it normal in size, color, and firmness?
- Was it difficult to pass?
- Have you had diarrhea?
2. The amount and kinds of fluid and food you are eating and
3. The names and amounts of medicine you are taking for your
4. Any changes in your health
5. Any new medications or treatments since your last visit
6. What you are doing to manage your bowels on your own
It is important to call your doctor or nurse if your pain
medications are increased, so your bowel management plan can be
checked. If you need help in learning about foods that help
prevent constipation, call the nutritionist.