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What Are Glycerin Suppositories?

Glycerin suppositories.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 April 2014
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Glycerin suppositories are a medicine placed in the rectum to produce easier bowel movements for people suffering from mild or moderate constipation. They come in a torpedo-shaped capsule, which has an outer layer of degradable gelatin that contains a dose of glycerin. This substance helps to absorb water, which softens the stool; it stimulates the lining of the rectum so the urge to empty the bowels occurs; and it provides lubrication that makes it easier to pass stool without much straining. These suppositories are generally mild, but they are meant for short-term use only.

Unlike laxatives that are taken orally, glycerin suppositories are inserted in the rectum. Generally, people are advised to use a glove coated with a water-based lubricant to push the suppository well into the rectum, and then to hold it in place for about a minute to prevent its expulsion. It can be helpful to lie down on the side and clench the anal muscles for several minutes after use, and it’s suggested that people wait at least 15 minutes before using the bathroom to get the best effect.

This can be challenging because the urge to “go” gets strong when a suppository is in place. It’s especially difficult or impossible to control this urge in babies, young children, or in adults with diminished mental capacity. Still, even if people use the toilet before the 15 minutes are up, they may retain some of the benefits of the suppository and constipation could be alleviated.

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Generally, glycerin suppositories only work to address constipation in the lower bowel. If the blockage is in the upper gastrointestinal areas, they won’t work. They’re best suited if fecal matter in the lower bowel is hardened and difficult to pass. Oral laxatives may be preferred when fecal matter isn’t present in the colon, and bowel movements have been absent for several days. People should get advice from a healthcare professional on which laxatives are most appropriate.

Some experts have expressed concern that using these suppositories too often may create a dependence on them, where people find it very difficult to have bowel movements without using one. In most circumstances, medical professionals won’t prescribe or recommend suppository laxatives for more than a week. Situations in which they might be prescribed include incidences of uncomfortable but relatively mild constipation in infants, children, and adults. They may be recommended after labor and delivery because they eliminate the need to strain. Oral glycerin could be recommended instead and has similar beneficial effects, with the advantage that taking an oral medication is often preferred to anal insertion.

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Discuss this Article

SarahGen
Post 6

@burcidi-- When I use a solid bullet glycerin suppository, I keep it in for at least half an hour. I get the best results in this time frame although I know most people don't wait as long.

As for liquid suppositories, you don't have to keep it in as long because it's already in liquid form. The solid ones have to melt inside the rectum from the body's temperature. That's why it takes longer for them to work.

There are also gel glycerin suppositories now. I haven't tried them but I think those would require less time than solid suppositories but more time than the liquid suppositories.

burcidi
Post 5

So what's the ideal amount of time I should wait after inserting glycerin suppositories for it to be most effective? Does the time differ for liquid glycerin suppositories?

serenesurface
Post 4

I've never managed to wait the whole fifteen minutes for the glycerine suppository to completely melt.

In about five to seven minutes I get stomach cramps and the urge to go. It really feels like it's worked! But when I do, I realize it was just the suppository.

SteamLouis
Post 3

@ddljohn-- Using two glycerin suppositories back to back might not cause any immediate side effects. But if you use them regularly and more than once a day, you will harm the lining of your intestines. Not to mention that you might become dependent on them.

Some people claim that glycerin suppositories don't cause dependence but that is not true. In addition to glycerin, suppositories contain a laxative. So they can cause dependence just as oral laxatives do. Even if you were to use a homemade suppository made of only glycerin, you can still become dependent on the stimulation it causes.

So it's not a good idea to use these every day or more than one at once. Suppositories are a temporary solution. I have never used them and my daughter used them twice when she had constipation as a child. The only permanent solution to constipation is changing your eating habits.

ysmina
Post 2

@ddljohn-- I'm not a physician, so please don't take my advice to be fact. It's best to consult with your doctor.

However, I have used glycerin suppositories on and off for about fifteen years and know about them. The suppository you have should have dosage information printed on it. They almost always say to use a single suppository per day for adults. Separate suppositories are sold for children who are younger than six years old. And if the child is less than two years old, it's not safe to use them unless the pediatrician actually prescribed baby glycerin suppositories.

If you have trouble with the solid glycerin suppositories, you can get liquid glycerin suppositories instead. These sort of look like a small enema, but it's the same thing as a suppository except in liquid form. You insert the end of the tube into the rectum and squeeze the liquid into the rectum. It's a lot easier than solid suppositories. It's also less messy and there is no waiting. I think you will have better luck with these.

ddljohn
Post 1

Hi, I have some concerns about glycerin suppositories and would like more information and / or suggestions if anyone has any.

First of all, what is the recommended dose of glycerin suppositories in one day? I usually use just one, but there have been a few times where the first suppository didn't do anything and I used a second one. Is that safe?

I also have difficulty keeping the suppository for fifteen minutes. I don't empty my bowels that quickly, but it's very uncomfortable, almost painful to wait for the suppository to melt. Is there something I can do to make the use easier and more comfortable?

And can a glycerin suppository for adults be used for children?

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