The bowel is the final portion of the digestive tract. The function of a healthy bowel is to absorb water and mix that water with material from digested food, store fecal waste, and eliminate fecal waste, or stool, at a suitable time. For many women with physical disabilities, the bowel is affected by their disability in some way. Due to limited mobility, some women may struggle with constipation. Other women, especially those with certain neurologic conditions, may experience fecal incontinence, or involuntary loss of stool. Still other women may experience both constipation and incontinence at different times.

The information on bowel health in women with SCI is even harder to find than that of bladder. Bowel dysfunction is said to be one of the most devastating complications of SCI as it greatly affects not only physical health but quality of life.2 Despite its importance on both health and quality of life, no research examining the bowel health of women with SCI exists other than the effect of bowel incontinence on sexual health.1,3,4,5 Several studies suggest complete emptying of the bowel before sexual activity though some women complained this took away the spontaneity of sex.2,4,5

1. Abramson, C E, K E McBride, K J Konnyu, and S L Elliott. 2008. "Sexual health outcome measures for individuals with a spinal cord injury: a systematic review." Spinal Cord 46: 320-324.

2. Benevento, Barbara T, and Marca L Sipski. 2002. "Neurogenic Bladder, Neurogenic Bowel, and Sexual Dysfunction in People With Spinal Cord Injury." Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association 82: 601-612.

3. Forsythe, E, and J E Horsewell. 2006. "Sexual rehabilitation of women with a spinal cord injury." Spinal Cord 44: 234-241.

4. Fritz, Heather A, Heather Dillaway, and Cathy L Lysack. 2015. "“Don’t Think Paralysis Takes Away Your Womanhood”: Sexual Intimacy After Spinal Cord Injury." American Journal of Occupational Therapy 69 (2).

5. Hess, Marika J, and Sigmund Hough. 2012. "Impact of spinal cord injury on sexuality: Broad-based clinical practice intervention and practical application." The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine 35 (4): 211-218.