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After two hours…

“Its really hard to hold your poop in. You have to tighten the voluntary sphincters,” says Sonpal. “In the first few hours, you’ll feel a sense of abdominal pressure. Some people describe it as abdominal cramping, whereas some people have more urgency.” In other words, holding it is a fast track to that gassy, bloated feeling you can’t seem to shake.

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After six hours…

“Your body will eventually start to impact your poop,” says Sonpal. Not good. He adds that at this point, you might actually loose the urgency to go, but that’s not because your poop has magically disappeared—instead, you’re just becoming constipated.

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After 12 hours…

“The longer the stool stays in the harder it gets,” says Sonpal. At this point, you may actually start to notice a distended belly—the pressure builds until you can’t hold your stomach flat even if you try. As the stool gets harder in your colon, you up your risk for an uncomfortable trip to the bathroom, says Sonpal. You may experience straining, bleeding, and even small tears. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)

If you keep holding it…

“I’ve never heard of anyone dying from holding poop, but in adults, voluntarily holding it in is just going lead to impaction where the stool is rock hard,” Sonpal says. If it gets impacted enough, you might need laxatives or even manual removal to get it out. Yikes. The bottom line? “Go to the bathroom when your body is telling you,” Sonpal says. If you can’t get to a bathroom right away, definitely make it a priority in the first few hours.