What Is Constipation?

Causes and How to Relieve It

Maybe you’re feeling bloated, crampy or unusually full, or you’re having fewer bowel movements than usual. Could it be constipation? Here’s how to find out. 

The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.

Could I Be Constipated?

In medical terms, constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, with stools that are hard, lumpy or dry.

What Are the Symptoms of Constipation?

If you’re constipated, you may notice some uncomfortable symptoms:

  • Fewer bowel movements per week than usual
  • Hard stools that are difficult or uncomfortable to pass
  • Straining during a bowel movement
  • Aches and cramping associated with bowel movements
  • Not feeling that you’ve completely emptied your bowels after a bowel movement

Not all symptoms are created equal. Learn more about the common — and less common — symptoms of constipation.

A woman feeling uncomfortable because of a cramp

What Causes Constipation?

Do any of the symptoms listed above sound familiar? If so, you could be constipated. Constipation can be caused by several different reasons. These can include:

  • Not consuming enough fiber and fluids
  • Lack of regular exercise or physical movement
  • Ignoring your body’s urges to pass stools
  • Taking some medications
  • Stress, depression or anxiety
  • Pregnancy

Curious about the causes of constipation? Learn more about what could be causing yours.

Hands pulling out toilet paper

What’s the Difference between Occasional Constipation and Chronic Constipation?

The main differences between occasional and chronic constipation are how long you’ve experienced symptoms and what could be causing them.

Occasional constipation is normal for most people and can be triggered by diet changes (especially a lack of fiber in your diet), stress or taking certain medications. However, if your symptoms last for more than three months, your constipation may be considered chronic and associated with other health conditions.

How Can I Find Relief from Occasional Constipation with MiraLAX®?

For constipation relief, try an osmotic laxative like MiraLAX®. Unlike stimulant laxatives, osmotic laxatives work naturally with the water in your body to hold water in the stool and soften it, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. (Use as directed for occasional constipation.)

Miralax® and miralax® mix-in pax® packet

Occasional Constipation Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down

While constipation is uncomfortable and can get in the way of your daily activities, switching up your diet, assessing your stress levels and upping your fiber intake can help relieve your symptoms.

Not sure about what to do next? Ask your doctor how these lifestyle changes, as well as an osmotic laxative like MiraLAX®, could help get things moving again.

    1. Gotfried J, Merck Manual. Constipation in adults. Updated January 2022. Accessed March 3, 2023.

    2. American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons. Constipation expanded information. Accessed March 3, 2023.

    3. Sparberg M. Chapter 89: Constipation. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, eds. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Available from: