Causes and symptoms

What causes constipation?

For many people with constipation the cause isn’t easily identified, but there are some recognised risk factors, including:

  • Lack of dietary fibre
  • Inadequate fluid intake or dehydration
  • Lack of mobility or not enough exercise
  • Certain medications (consult the corresponding medication’s Patient Information Leaflet if available). It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think your medication is causing side effects.
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Deliberately withholding or ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
  • Stress and changes to routine
  • For babies and toddlers, changes in diet and the transition to solid foods, or starting school (when they may have a change of exercise and eating routines)

Signs of constipation

Constipation can vary from occasional episodes – when symptoms can range from mild to very troublesome – through to ‘chronic’ (persistent) constipation. In any of these cases, there can be troublesome symptoms that impact quality of life.

Straining in at least one out of every four bowel movements as well as the passing of small dry stools less than three times per week can indicate constipation. Sufferers can also complain of bloating, pain, lethargy and generally feeling unwell.

Common constipation symptoms - checklist

  • Feeling bloated or windy
  • Fewer than three bowel movements a week
  • A sense of an incomplete bowel movement
  • Straining or suffering from pain when passing a stool
  • Hard, dry stools
  • Pain in abdomen or rectum
  • Generally feeling unwell

If any of these symptoms continue more than two weeks, see a healthcare professional.

If you find blood in a stool, lose weight unexpectedly, or experience vomiting, go to see your doctor immediately, as these could be signs of a more serious underlying condition.

Download this toilet diary to keep a record of your bowel movements to discuss with your doctor
or pharmacist.


You are about to enter the healthcare professionals ONLY site. By clicking YES you confirm that you are a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional practising in Australia.

YES - I am a healthcare professional, please proceed NO - Please return me to the public site

NOTICE: You are leaving our website

MOVICOL® does not have any links with these third parties.

Any information provided by this source should be discussed with your healthcare professional and does not replace their advice.

We are providing links to third-party websites solely as a convenience to you, because we believe that these websites may provide useful content.

We are not, by referring or linking to the third party website, incorporating its contents into our own website. We do not endorse or guarantee and (to the maximum extent permitted by law) we disclaim any responsibility for: the content, products or services offered on these websites, their performance or interaction with your computer, their security and privacy policies and practices, and any consequences that may result from visiting these websites. These third-party sites may have their own privacy policies. You should review the privacy policy of any website before you provide personal or confidential information.

By clicking to continue, you acknowledge and agree to everything we say above.

You are now leaving our website.