3 Tips to Handle Bowel Urgency

Everybody poops. We hope just not in our pants, right? Read on for 3 KEY tips to managing bowel urgency when it happens.
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Everybody Poops. We hope just not in our pants, right?

Here’s 3 Tips to Handle Bowel Urgency

We’ve all been there. You’re just enjoying your morning coffee, when…


Oh crap. Literally. You get this HUGE urge to poop, and I’m here to tell you what to do about it.

Why Does Bowel Urgency Happen?

In short, the pelvic floor, and pelvic bowl, are ‘sensitive’ places, and the internal anal sphincter is one of the most sensitive places.

I could actually geek out with you FOR DAYS about how awesome it is (like, have you ever thought about how you know if you have to fart, poop, or have diarrhea? Now you can’t unthinking it, can you? You’re welcome, and yes, I’ll do a blog post on it later and explain it all)…but where was I? Oh yes, WHY does bowel urgency happen?

So this highly sensitive internal anal sphincter, is an entirely involuntary muscle that exists in a state of maximal contraction (to hold poop in). When it senses enough pressure, it tells you that you have to poop.

And, sometimes, that signal is stronger than other times.

More geeky details on the ‘why’s’ of sudden urgency later.

For now, here’s the 40-sec summary on how to manage bowel urgency, or you can read about it below, if that’s more your style:

3 Tips to Handle Bowel Urgency

1. STOP.

Whatever you’re doing, stop. Take a deep breath and relax. Put the brain in control.


Yep, but instead of the 5 “quick-flicks” that we employed to Control Bladder Urges, for bowel urgency, it is ONE, LONG, CONTRACTION of the pelvic floor muscles.

The type of contraction is the traditional “Kegel”, but instead of focusing on the vag or penile parts, really focus on the rectum instead. Literally think of squeezing and lifting and holding in stool or farts, but just with the actual rectum muscles, not the bigger gluteal parts (so the cheeks shouldn’t move as you do this).

Think of pulling your tailbone towards your pubic bone, or lifting the anus up towards your belly button. (Need more help, check out this post on finding your pelvic muscles).

HOLD this contraction 30-60 seconds (that’s a long time), until the urge passes. To get technical, this activates your Rectoanal Inhibitory Reflex (RAIR– I always visualize a lion when I say that, RAIR!!), which is a technical way of saying that when you hold the rectum up and in, in this way, for long enough, it moves the stool back from the internal anal sphincter (remember that sucker is super nervy and sensitive), thereby reducing your urge, for the moment.

But really, it’s only a moment. The muscles of the colon will push that stool back into that sensitive Internal Anal Sphincter shortly, hence the next step…

3. Calmly Walk To the Bathroom

Yep. Unlike bladder urges, after which we may sometimes wish to postpone, we always need to listen to bowel urges.

Let me say it again for those in the back:

Unlike Bladder Urges, after which we may sometimes want to postpone voiding, we always need to listen to bowel urges.

This. is. hugely. important. to. understand.

What goes in, MUST eventually come out, and the involuntary muscles of your digestive tract will contract rhythmically again in a few minutes, pushing that stool (or loose stuff) against the Internal Anal Sphincter, and while this long squeeze of the rectum will work to buy you some time (if you do it repeatedly with each urge, maybe up to 15 minutes), remember that the Internal Anal Sphincter is involuntary, so when the pressure inside builds up to a certain point, that sphincter will let go….and… well, crap. Literally.

Hopefully not in our pants.

So please don’t try to postpone pooping, if you have a strong urge. Walk calmly to the bathroom. Stopping to squeeze again if another strong urge comes on, then proceeding calmly and collectedly, until you can poop in peace.

Why calmly? Because anxiety might change the status of ‘things’ in your rectum, and might worsen the urge, and-or trigger the Internal Anal Sphincter to relax and, POOF. Poop in our pants…and maybe the trousers too (shout out to my UK friends)!

But why do we get those sudden urges?

That my friends, is a tale for another day.

Stay tuned for more fun topics, like internal anal sphincters, what happens in prolapse surgery, best birthing positions AND more!

Thanks for Reading!

Everybody poops, so please share this with someone you love! Bonus points if you mention it on social media! Tag me so I can reciprocate the love!

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Thanks for reading!

xoxo, Dr. Kelly

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