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Dr QM Leong
Dr QM Leong

Bowel Movement After Colonoscopy: 5 Things To Expect

A colonoscopy is a critical diagnostic tool used in healthcare for the early detection of colorectal cancer and the investigation of gastrointestinal symptoms. This procedure involves examining the large intestine (colon) using a flexible tube with a camera. 

While it’s essential for preventive health, patients often have concerns about post-procedure experiences, especially changes in bowel movements. How long does it take to have a regular bowel movement after a colonoscopy? It can vary from patient to patient. But generally, it may take a few days to a week.

This article addresses bowel movement change concerns by highlighting common bowel experiences after a colonoscopy and providing essential tips for faster recovery.

5 Common Bowel Movement Experiences After Colonoscopy

During a colonoscopy, the colon is cleansed thoroughly to allow clear visualisation of the colon walls. This cleansing process can remove the stool from the colon. After the procedure, it might take time for your body to process food and produce waste, leading to a bowel movement.

Some of the common post-colonoscopy side effects are:

1. Decrease Or Absence Of Bowel Movements

In the first few days after a colonoscopy, it’s common to have trouble pooping. The decrease or absence of bowel movement occurs because the bowel is completely emptied before the procedure to allow a clear view of the colon.

How long does it take to have a bowel movement after colonoscopy? It may take a few days as your digestive system returns to normal.

2. Mild Discomfort In The Rectal Area

After a colonoscopy, most people experience mild discomfort or sensitivity in the rectal area. This is usually due to the passage of the colonoscope and generally resolves within a day. Sitting in a warm bath and avoiding straining during bowel movements can help alleviate discomfort.

3. Abdominal Bloating And Gas

Air is introduced into the colon during a colonoscopy to expand it and provide better visibility. That’s why patients experience temporary abdominal bloating and gas after the procedure. Walking and moving around can help in expelling this gas and reduce bloating.

4. Slight Bleeding

A small amount of bleeding, especially with the first bowel movement after the procedure, is not uncommon. It usually happens if a biopsy is taken or a polyp is removed. However, if the bleeding persists or is heavy, you must contact your doctor.

5. Cramping Or Discomfort

Some cramping or discomfort in the abdomen is possible after a colonoscopy. This is typically due to the air introduced into the colon, which usually subsides within a few hours. You may take pain relievers or use a heating pad, which can provide relief if needed.

When To Seek Medical Attention Post-Colonoscopy

After a colonoscopy, it’s normal for bowel movements to vary from your usual pattern temporarily. However, certain signs should prompt concern and a call to your healthcare provider. Be vigilant for the following symptoms:

  • No Bowel Movements: How long after colonoscopy will having no bowel movement be a concern? Three days. However, the answer may depend on individual factors and the specifics of the procedure.

It’s advisable to contact your doctor as this could be a sign of constipation or bowel obstruction.

  • Severe or Persistent Abdominal Pain: While mild discomfort or cramping can be normal, severe or persistent pain is not because it could indicate complications like perforation or inflammation.
  • Heavy or Continuous Bleeding: A small amount of blood in your stool may be normal, especially if polyps were removed. However, heavy or continuous bleeding that doesn’t stop is a cause for concern.
  • Black, Tarry Stools: This can indicate bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Fever and Chills: These symptoms may indicate an infection, especially if accompanied by abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting: Persistent vomiting, especially if accompanied by other symptoms like pain or fever, should be reported to a healthcare provider.
  • Change in Color of Stool: Pale or clay-coloured stools can indicate a problem with bile flow and should be evaluated.
  • Excessive Fatigue or Dizziness: If you feel unusually tired, weak, or dizzy, this could be a sign of internal bleeding or other complications.

Tips For A Smooth Recovery After A Colonoscopy Procedure

Recovery time after a colonoscopy is typically not long. Most people can return to their normal activities within 24 hours. The sedative used during the procedure might cause drowsiness, so rest is advised for the remainder of the day.

Here are some tips to help you through the process:

  • Begin with Light Foods: What to eat post-procedure? Start with easily digestible foods like soups, yoghurts, or applesauce. Gradually reintroduce solid foods as your digestive system recovers.
  • Hydrate Frequently: Rehydrate your body by drinking ample fluids, particularly water, herbal teas, and clear broths.
  • Rest Adequately: Allow your body to recover from the sedative effects. Rest as needed and avoid physically demanding activities for at least a day.
  • Walk to Reduce Bloating: Engage in gentle walking to help release trapped gas in your intestines, reducing bloating and discomfort.
  • Monitor Bowel Activity: Be alert to the resumption of bowel movements. If you experience an extended absence of bowel movements or observe abnormal symptoms like heavy bleeding or severe pain, contact your healthcare provider.
  • Adhere to Medication Guidelines: Follow any specific instructions regarding medication, particularly if modifications were suggested pre-procedure. Take note of the medication to avoid before colonoscopy, such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
  • Avoid Alcohol Intake: Refrain from consuming alcohol for at least 24 hours post-procedure, especially if you were sedated.
  • Seek Medical Advice for Unusual Symptoms: Immediately seek medical attention if you encounter severe pain, significant bleeding, fever, or signs of infection.
  • Postpone Rigorous Activities: Plan to resume your regular activities gradually. Take additional rest if you experience fatigue or dizziness.
  • Ask for Assistance When Needed: Don’t hesitate to seek help from family or friends for activities that require alertness, such as driving.

Conclusion About How Long It Takes For Bowel Movement To Return To Normal After Colonoscopy

Typically, bowel movements should return to normal within a few days after a colonoscopy. This time frame can vary from person to person, depending on individual health factors and how your body responds to the procedure.

It’s important to remember that the colon is emptied before the colonoscopy, so normal bowel activities may take some time to resume.

In Singapore, colonoscopy is recommended as a key screening procedure for certain age groups, particularly for those over 50 or those with a family history of colorectal conditions. This screening is vital for early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer.

For those seeking a colonoscopy in Singapore, Advanced Colorectal And General Surgery is one of the facilities that offer this important medical service. We provide comprehensive care services for colorectal health, ensuring patients receive quality screening and treatment.

Schedule a consultation today!

Frequently Asked Questions About The Bowel Movement After Colonoscopy

Can I Take Laxatives Or Stool Softeners After A Colonoscopy?

Yes. You can take laxatives or stool softeners after a colonoscopy if you’re experiencing constipation or difficulty with bowel movements. However, you should follow the specific advice of your doctor regarding the use of laxatives or stool softeners.

Is It Normal To Feel Tired After A Colonoscopy?

Yes. Feeling tired or drowsy is common, especially if sedatives are used. It’s advisable to rest for the remainder of the day.

Can Haemorrhoids Be Affected By A Colonoscopy?

If you have existing haemorrhoids, you may be irritated by the procedure. Discuss with your doctor for appropriate care.

Can I Resume Taking My Regular Medications Immediately After The Procedure?

Consult with your healthcare provider about when to resume regular medications, especially if they were stopped before the colonoscopy.