Conditions + Treatments

What is Encopresis in Children?

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When a child has encopresis, this is a familiar scenario.

You are at the park with your 7-year-old and she is having a great time — until she has an accidental bowel movement. When you ask her why she didn’t tell you she needed to go, she says, “I didn’t feel it.” It’s probably not the first time this has happened — and without treatment, it won’t be the last.

Encopresis is a problem that won’t just go away on its own. However, it’s relatively easy to treat.

Here’s what you need to know about encopresis:

  • Encopresis is another name for fecal soiling — or an accidental bowel movement.
  • There are two main causes of encopresis:
    • Long-term constipation — Your toilet-trained child becomes constipated which stretches his intestine and rectum until he cannot effectively hold the stool and it leaks out.
    • Toilet refusal (much less common) — Your child has never been toilet trained and refuses to have a bowel movement in the toilet, which leads to constipation and encopresis.

How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches encopresis

Encopresis can have serious psychological consequences for a child, including humiliation and shame. Boston Children’s Division of Developmental Medicine treats the whole child — physically and psychologically. Should your child's condition need further escalation due to the complexity of this condition, the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition will work in conjunction with the Motility and Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders Center to assist in diagnosing and treating cases that require further consultation from specialized medical disciplines.

Boston Children's Hospital provides a compassionate team of professionals who will address your child's physical symptoms and emotional well being, while helping your child learn to have regular bowel movements on the toilet.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944