What Is a Glycerin Suppository?

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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2019
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Glycerin is an odorless and clear compound often used as a lubricant in the medical world. Among its many forms, the substance is sold as a rectal laxative known as a glycerin suppository. These suppositories are available over the counter in drugstores and are intended for occasional use by people who suffer from mild to moderate constipation. These suppositories should be inserted directly into the rectum and should never be consumed orally.

A person preparing to use a glycerin suppository should make sure his or her hands are clean. A suppository needs to be inserted while a person is lying on his or her side in the fetal position. The person should then stay in that position for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes after insertion, until they feel the urge to have a bowel movement. After getting up, the person should clean his or her hands again for sanitary reasons before heading to the toilet. The glycerin typically will cause a bowel movement at this time, although one should stay close to a toilet for a while after they are finished, because additional bowel movements may follow.


Many people become constipated as a result of hardened fecal matter becoming stuck in the rectum. Glycerin suppositories melt once inside the rectum to make the waste softer and easier to pass. A person who forces out a hard bowel movement is at risk of tearing his or her rectal lining or suffering from hemorrhoids. The use of a glycerin suppository can help prevent these problems.

People should not rely on suppositories every time they need to have a bowel movement, however. A person who is suffering from chronic constipation should talk to his or her doctor about a high-fiber diet and other solutions. Pregnant women, people who suffer from frequent rectal bleeding and those who are on prescription medications also should talk to a doctor before purchasing glycerin suppositories.

A glycerin suppository has minimal side effects when compared to some other medical treatments, but it is important for users to be aware of the possible risks. Some people may experience rectal burning, diarrhea or cramping after the use of a suppository. These side effects are considered standard, and there usually is no reason for a person to worry about these side effects unless they last for an excessive amount of time. If a person is allergic to glycerin, then he or she may break out in hives or experience anal bleeding. Anyone who believes he or she is having an allergic reaction should be taken to an emergency room.


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Post 3

@serenesurface-- Did you lie down for some time after inserting them? Most people forget to do his.

And yes, the suppositories can create a feeling urgency fairly quickly in some people. But this is usually a false alarm. That's why it's best to lie down for at least twenty minutes and ignore the urgency feeling in the beginning.

Post 2

@turquoise-- I had to use glycerin suppositories for the first time a few weeks ago. I do eat healthy and I usually don't have constipation. My constipation was actually a side effect of medications. I had to be given strong pain killers every day for a week for a serious back injury. I found out later that they can cause constipation and they did in my case.

Unfortunately though, the glycerin suppositories weren't as helpful as I had expected. I don't know if I used them incorrectly but they didn't trigger a bowel movement for me. They did cause spasms and I ran to the bathroom several times but there was nothing. I ended up having to take an oral laxative.

Post 1

Some people do use glycerin suppositories very frequently and I think that's a terrible idea. Laxatives cause dependency, meaning that after some time, they don't work regularly on their own and rely on laxatives to trigger bowel movements.

The only solution to constipation is to adjust the diet and add more foods rich in fiber. More vegetables and fruits need to be eaten and foods and drinks that cause constipation need to be avoided. Using a glycerin suppository rarely is okay, but it should not being a regular occurrence.

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