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Pregnancy and Postpartum Bowel Changes: Constipation and Fecal Incontinence

Shin, Grace Hewon MD1,2; Toto, Erin Lucinda MD1,2; Schey, Ron MD, FACG1

American Journal of Gastroenterology: April 2015 - Volume 110 - Issue 4 - p 521–529
doi: 10.1038/ajg.2015.76

Pregnancy and the postpartum period are often associated with many gastrointestinal complaints, including nausea, vomiting, and heartburn; however, the most troublesome complaints in some women are defecatory disorders such as constipation and fecal incontinence, especially postpartum. These disorders are often multifactorial in etiology, and many studies have looked to see what risk factors lead to these complications. This review discusses the current knowledge of pelvic floor and anorectal physiology, especially during pregnancy, and reviews the current literature on causes and treatments of postpartum bowel symptoms of constipation and fecal incontinence.

1Section of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence: Ron Schey, MD, FACG, Neurogastroenterology and Esophageal Disorders Program, Temple University Physicians/Section of Gastroenterology, 3401 North Broad Street, 8th Floor Parkinson Pavilion, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA. E-mail:

2These authors contributed equally to this work

Received 29 October 2014; accepted 10 February 2015

Guarantor of the article: Ron Schey, MD, FACG.

Specific author contributions: Grace H. Shin and Erin L. Toto: review of previous and current information, drafting of manuscript, and critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. Ron Schey: review of previous and current information, drafting of the manuscript, critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content, review supervision, and guarantor for submission.

Financial support: None.

Potential competing interests: None.

© The American College of Gastroenterology 2015. All Rights Reserved.
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