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.

Boston Children’s is so much more than a hospital—it’s a community of researchers, clinicians, administrators, support staff, innovators, teachers, patients and families, all working together to make the impossible possible. ”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000
For Referring Providers: 844-BCH-PEDS | 844-224-7337