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You’re Not Alone

It may surprise you that accidental bowel leakage or ABL affects tens of millions of women and men in the US alone. Studies show that 1 in 5 women over the age of 40 experience ABL, and that ABL affects a similar number of men. Despite what a common problem it is, many never speak up about it. At Butterfly, we hope to open up this important conversation.

What is Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL)?

Accidental bowel leakage (ABL) is the accidental passing of solid or liquid stool or mucus from the rectum. In medical literature, ABL has been referred to as fecal incontinence, yet for many people, there has been no term to describe this condition and they have simply referred to it as anal leakage, bowel incontinence or simply having a leaky bowel. A study published in the 2012 International Journal of Clinical Practice showed that over 70% of women over 40 preferred the term accidental bowel leakage (or ABL) to describe this condition. This overwhelming preference for the term ABL is not surprising. For many people, accidental bowel leakage is a term that best describes how they experience their leakage—often unexpectedly and accidentally.

Who Experiences ABL?

ABL affects both men and women1. Studies show that 1 in 5 women over the age of 402 and a similar number of men4 experience ABL. 9 out of 10 have small to moderate amounts of leakage. Butterfly is designed to provide secure protection for people who experience light to moderate ABL.

Causes of ABL

ABL doesn’t just happen as a result of childbirth1,3. In fact, recent studies show the greatest risk factors for ABL include having common disturbances like chronic diarrhea3,4, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)2,3.

There are many other common risk factors for ABL including:

  • Having a gall bladder removal procedure3
  • Being overweight3
  • Being a smoker3
  • Advancing age3,4 and menopause3
  • Urinary incontinence2,3,4
  • Having diseases that affect the nervous system, like diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease3,4
  • Childbirth
  • Prostate therapy

1 H.W. Brown, S.D. Wexner, M.M. Segall, K.L. Brezoczky, E.S. Lukacz. Accidental bowel leakage in the mature women’s health study: prevalence and predictors. The International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2012 Nov; 66 (11): 1101-1108

2 A.E. Barucha, A.R. Zinsmeister, G.R. Locke, B.M. Seide, K. McKeon, C.D. Schleck, et al. Prevalence and burden of fecal incontinence: A population based study in women; Gastroenterology. 2005 July; 129 (1): 42-49

3 A.E. Barucha, A.R. Zinsmeister, C.D. Schleck, L.J. Melton. Bowel disturbance are the most important risk factors for late onset fecal incontinence: A population-based case-control study in women; Gastoenterology. 2010 Nov;(139)5: 1559-66

4 W.E. Whitehead, L. Borrud, P.S. Goode, S. Meikle, E. Mueller, A. Tuteja, et al. Fecal Incontinence in US Adults: Epidemiology and Risk Factors. Gastroenterology. 2009 August; 137(2): 512-517.e2

Three Butterflies

Talk to your Healthcare Provider

There is a lot to learn about this condition that affects so many. Butterfly encourages you to start a dialogue with your healthcare provider about ABL.