Encopresis is the passage of stool in places other than the toilet. It is most often an involuntary action. Encopresis is often called stool soiling because of the stains left on underwear.

Accidents are normal in infants and toddlers until they learn bowel control. It is considered abnormal in children aged four years and older.

Encopresis may be caused by a variety of conditions such as:

  • Chronic constipation
    • Most common cause
    • When a large amount of hard, dry stool is filling the rectum, over time the child becomes unable to recognize the sensation of fullness and the need to go to the bathroom.
    • Liquid stool may leak around the hard mass of stool, causing staining of the underwear.
    • May be associated with a diet low in fiber and fluids, and lack of exercise
  • Poor toilet training or refusal to use the toilet for bowel movements
  • Emotional problems
  • Organic causes (rare)—result of problems or malformations in the intestines