Common Bowel Problems Incomplete emptying

What is an Incomplete Bowel Movement?

An incomplete bowel movement is when there is still stool left after a bowel movement, i.e., an incomplete evacuation of stool. Incomplete emptying or the sensation of incomplete emptying is one of the most bothersome and most common symptoms of constipation. When experiencing incomplete evacuation of stool, it is common to: 

  • Feel the need to strain in order to pass stool  
  • Feel like there is something left or a feeling of pelvic heaviness 
  • Have a continuous or repeated need to empty the bowel 
  • Needing to press with your fingers through the vagina or pushing to pass stool successfully 
  • Experience soiling of underwear (i.e. bowel leakage) 

Causes of Incomplete Bowel Emptying 

The causes for incomplete emptying can vary, but a common cause of incomplete evacuation is pelvic floor dysfunction, which is a change in the function of the pelvic floor muscles. Passing stool is a complex process where the muscles of the pelvic floor play an important role. Changes to the function of the pelvic floor muscles can therefore cause trouble when emptying the bowels.

Age, pregnancy, and/or childbirth, can cause a weaker a pelvic floor and by that a bulge, called a rectocele, can appear and cause the trapping of stool. Rectoceles are common, especially in women that have given birth.

Other pelvic floor dysfunctions that can cause incomplete emptying are rectal prolapse (when part of rectum falls out through the anus) and obstructed defecation syndrome (a functional bowel disorder characterized by difficulties to empty the bowels, such as not being able to empty when feeling the need to or not being able to empty enough). 

Treatment for Incomplete Evacuation of the Bowel 

A common sign of pelvic floor dysfunctions is the need to use your fingers, called self-digitation, to assist in the passing of stool. Unfortunately, self-digitation may cause damage in the long term. When diet, lifestyle changes, and laxatives have not helped, there is a minimally invasive therapy called bowel irrigation that, with the use of water, can start or end the process of passing stools, to achieve a more complete emptying of the bowel. Thereby it can reduce episodes of bowel leakage and symptoms of incomplete emptying. With bowel irrigation, you can take control of the situation and live a more independent life. 

If you are experiencing incomplete emptying, a good start is to fill out a bowel diary to ease the discussion with your healthcare provider. A downloadable bowel diary is available at the end of this article. 

There are different devices for bowel irrigation that can assist in taking control of your bowel, read more about Wellspects irrigation devices here.

Are you a healthcare professional and would like to learn more?