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Constipation in Children

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Definition & Facts

Constipation is a condition in which a child has fewer than two bowel movements a week, or hard, dry, and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.

Symptoms & Causes

Constipation happens when stool stays too long in a child's colon. Causes of constipation in children may include ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, a diet low in fiber, certain medicines or health problems.


A doctor will use a child's medical history and perform a physical exam to diagnose constipation. A doctor may order specific tests to diagnose the cause of a child's constipation if he or she does not respond to treatment.


Treatments for constipation in children include making changes in the child's eating, diet, and nutrition; behavioral changes; and enemas and laxatives.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

A child's eating habits and diet may affect whether he or she is constipated. If a child's diet has too little fiber, he or she may get constipated.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support basic and clinical research into many digestive disorders.

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract-also called the digestive tract-and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.