Problems with loss of bowel control include what we call faecal incontinence (loss of solid or liquid from the bowel) or flatus incontinence (passing of wind when you don’t mean to). These problems are more common than you think!

  • 14.7% of New Zealanders surveyed by Sharma et al (2011) felt they had a problem with bowel control.
  • 12.4% had leakage of liquid or solid stool at least once a month.

We get it, it’s embarrassing and not easy to talk about! We are here to help.

At Pelvic Health Physiotherapy we see lots of patients with bowel control issues, including after vaginal deliveries. If the delivery was particularly difficult, or there was use of forceps, there is a greater chance of bowel problems, and if there was tearing of the perineum that involved the anal sphincter complex then it can take more time to regain control.

We also see people many years, even decades after childbirth, with bowel problems. Men can have problems too, in fact anyone can.


We know from research studies that the risk factors for bowel incontinence include: 

– childbirth
– older age
– some medications
– some surgeries
– diabetes
– infections
– radiotherapy
– already suffering from urinary incontinence
– frequent and loose stools
– multiple chronic illnesses

Age related muscle loss in the pelvic floor, and long term straining on the toilet to pass a bowel motion can also contribute to problems.


What can Pelvic Health Physiotherapy help with?

– lack of control of stool or wind, and having accidents
– soiling on the underwear
– urgency and frequency of bowel motions
– constipation and straining
– pain passing a bowel motion
– children’s toilet training


Things to see your GP about first before seeing us:

– Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding)
– Change of bowel motions or habits that last longer than a few weeks
– Severe, persistent or occasional ongoing abdominal pain
– A lump or mass in the abdomen
– Tiredness and loss of weight for no obvious reason
– Diarrhoea lasting more than 2-3 days
– Not passing a bowel motion in over a week
– If you have disordered eating or a known eating disorder


For more infiormation: 

Bowel Cancer NZ website – click here
Bowel Health – Jean Hailes website – click here
Continence NZ website – click here



Sharma, A., Marshall, R. J., Macmillan, A. K., Merrie, A. E. H., Reid, P., & Bissett, I. P. (2011). Determining levels of fecal incontinence in the community: a New Zealand cross-sectional study. Diseases of the colon & rectum54(11), 1381-1387. Click here

Ditah, I., Devaki, P., Luma, H.N., Ditah, C., Njei, B., Jaiyeoba, C., Salami, A., Ewelukwa, O., Szarka, L. (2013). Prevalence, Trends, and Risk Factors for Fecal Incontinence in United States Adults, 2005–2010. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 12(4), 636-643. Click here