Women's Pelvic Health and Reconstructive Surgery

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Bowel Incontinence

The physicians and staff at University Women's Care are a team of caring professionals. Our providers have the expertise to treat even the most complex urogynecologic problems. We provide practiced, thoughtful care and work with our patients to find the most appropriate diagnosis and treatment to meet each woman's unique personal needs.

About bowel incontinence

Bowel or anal incontinence is the involuntary loss of feces or gas (flatus). This type of incontinence is usually associated with childbirth - whether recent or from many years in the past - which can injure the sphincter muscles of the anus. Gastrointestinal tract disorders such as diarrhea or constipation and rectal prolapse (rectocele) can also result in anal incontinence.

Types of bowel incontinence and associated conditions

  • Anal incontinence
    Involuntary loss of feces or flatus (intestinal gas)
  • Fecal incontinence
    Involuntary loss of solid or liquid feces
  • Flatal incontinence
    Involuntary loss of flatus (intestinal gas)
  • Fecal (rectal) urgency
    A sudden, compelling need to defecate that is difficult to delay
  • Straining to defecate
    Straining to either start, continue, or improve bowel movement (defecation)
  • Feeling of incomplete bowel evacuation
    Not feeling empty after a bowel movement (defecation)
  • Constipation
    Bowel movements (defecation) are infrequent, incomplete, and/or require frequent straining or manual assistance
  • Rectal prolapse
    Part of the small intestine has fallen out of place and can be seen outside of the body, protruding from the anus either during bowel movements or all the time

Diagnosing bowel incontinence

Accurately diagnosing the cause of anal incontinence helps determine the most effective treatment for a woman's particular situation.

Tests used to diagnose the type of incontinence or to determine its cause include:

  • Medical history and physical
  • Stool samples/cultures
  • Voiding diary
  • Anal rectal manometry - Tests how well the anal sphincter muscles are working
  • Pelvic ultrasound - Uses ultrasound to produce an image of pelvic organs and muscles

Treating bowel incontinence

Once a diagnosis is made, treatment focuses on the cause of the incontinence.

Treatments we offer

  • Dietary changes
    Certain foods and beverages change the consistency of stool or stimulation of the bowel.
  • Timed voiding
    Trying to regulate the timing of bowel movements can help decrease accidents later in the day.
  • Medications
    Two common medications used to treat anal incontinence:
    • Fiber
      Fiber is a bulking agent and helps bind the stool together to allow for a more complete bowel movement.
    • Loperamide (Imodium® antidiarrheal) 
      Used to treat diarrhea, this medicine can be helpful in decreasing accidents.
  • Biofeedback, with or without electrical stimulation
    A process of weekly pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation, usually with added electrical stimulation, can be used to retrain the neural connections between the brain and the rectum.
  • Posterior colporrhaphy/rectocele repair
    Performed though a vaginal incision, this procedure uses stitches to reposition and support a prolapsed rectum.
  • Anal sphincteroplasty
    Recommended when there is significant muscular defect, this surgery repairs separated muscles of the anal sphincter.
  • Anal bulking
    In a minimally invasive office procedure, bulking agents can be injected around the anal opening to reduce leakage. 
  • Sacral neuromodulation (Medtronic InterStim® neurostimulation system)
    An implantable “pacemaker” that activates nerves that control the bowels can be placed during an outpatient procedure, typically after a test phase.

Request an appointment

Our providers have the expertise to treat even the most complex urogynecologic problems with practiced, thoughtful care for the needs of our patients. The pelvic health program at UMMC sees patients by physician-referral and self-referral.

Health care professionals

To refer a patient to the University Women's Care pelvic health program:


  • Request an appointment by calling (601) 984-5314.
  • Information to bring to your first appointment: