Constipation | Symptoms


What are the symptoms of constipation?

The symptoms of constipation may include:

  • Feeling like you still need to have a bowel movement even after you’ve had one
  • Feeling like your intestines or rectum are blocked
  • Having hard, dry stool that is difficult to pass
  • Having fewer than 3 bowel movements in a week
  • Straining to have a bowel movement

How often should I have a bowel movement?

It’s different for every person. Not everyone has a bowel movement once a day. It's not true that you must have a daily bowel movement to be considered "regular." A normal range is anywhere between 3 times a day to 3 times a week. You may be getting constipated if you start having bowel movements much less often than you usually do, or if your stool becomes hard to pass.

How do I know if my child is constipated?

The symptoms of constipation are the same for children as for adults. For some children, it is normal to pass stools as far apart as every few days. Whether your child is constipated or not depends on how often he or she normally passes stools and how easy this is to do. If your child’s stools are soft and easy to pass, don’t worry about a few days in between. If your child’s stools are hard and difficult to pass, your child is likely constipated.

Do I need to see a doctor?

Probably not. Most cases of constipation are easily treated at home by making some healthy lifestyle changes. However, talk to your family doctor if your symptoms are severe, or if:

  • Constipation is new and unusual for you
  • You have constipation for 3 weeks or more despite at-home treatment (such as diet changes)
  • You have abdominal pain
  • You lose weight without reason
  • You notice any blood in your stools


See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 08/12
Created: 08/96