Bowel Incontinence or BCD (bowel control disorder) is the involuntary leakage of gas, liquid or stool. The most common cause of BCD is injury to a nerve or muscle during childbirth; thus it is not surprising that women tend to suffer a higher rate of BCD than men. Childbirth-related BCD can present immediately but often presents later in life.

Bowel Control Disorder can be triggered by a specific event or may develop over time with no single underlying cause. Damage to the anal sphincter may cause BCD immediately; however, most cases develop later in life. Other leading causes of causes of bowel incontinence are:

  • Injury from childbirth
  • Weakened muscle tone
  • Anorectal surgery, such as hemorrhoid repair
  • Accidents or other trauma to the sphincter muscle
  • Anatomic birth defects
  • Deterioration of nerve function

How Your Bowels Work

Bowel control relies on the muscles and nerves of your anus and rectum. They coordinate function and feeling in order to:

  • Hold stool in your rectum
  • Let you know when your rectum is full
  • Release stool when you’re ready

Ringlike muscles called sphincters close tightly around your anus to hold stool in your rectum until you’re ready to release the stool. However, for patients that experience bowel incontinence, these sphincter muscles don’t function properly and lose that control.

BCD can have a dramatic impact on quality of life. Due to the fear and embarrassment of incontinence events many patients:

  • Are forced to alter their schedules
  • Avoid social interaction
  • Avoid intimate situations
  • Incorrectly assume that poor bowel control is a normal consequence of aging or childbirth
  • Remain untreated instead of suffering the embar­rassment of discussing their condition
  • Are unaware of available treatments that can help

Patients & Families » About Bowel Control Disorder » Understanding BCD