Stool retention — when it is not caused by injury, infection, or anatomic abnormality — usually occurs in toilet-trained children for a combination of reasons, some environmental and some behavioral:
- Eating a high-fat, high-sugar, "junk-food" diet
- Drinking mainly soft drinks and sugared drinks
- Lack of exercise
- Reluctance to use public bathrooms
- Stress in the family, with friends or at school
- Being too busy playing to take time to use the bathroom
- Change in routine, such as when a child is adapting to fewer bathroom breaks in a structured situation, like school
The resulting difficulties tend to build on themselves, causing a vicious cycle. If the lack of bowel movements continues, it leads to a condition called encopresis, an accidental, anal leakage of watery stool around otherwise impacted (or backed-up, solid) stool.
Treatment includes a combination of mild medications and gentle behavioral modifications.