Docusate sodium is an oral stool softener that helps relieve constipation, according to WebMD. It increases the amount of water absorbed by the stools in the large intestine, making them softer and easier to pass without straining.
Minor side effects of docusate sodium include mild diarrhea and nausea, explains Drugs.com. Serious side effects include severe nausea, failure to have a bowel movement, and rectal bleeding, irritation, numbness or rash. Should any of these occur, patients should stop taking docusate and contact a physician. Signs of a serious allergic reaction requiring emergency medical treatment include hives, swelling of the face, tongue or throat, and difficulty breathing.
Women who are pregnant, people who are on a low salt diet, and people with persistent changes in bowel habits lasting two weeks or more should not take docusate sodium, according to WebMD. Patients sick with severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting should also avoid docusate sodium. People taking docusate sodium should avoid taking mineral oil without physician approval.
Docusate sodium usually produces a bowel movement within one to three days, states Drugs.com. It should not be used for more than seven days without a physician's approval, as laxative overuse can lead to serious bowel problems.