Stool softeners, which are emollient laxatives that cancontain the ingredient ducosate, can take at least a week before they are effective, relates WebMD. Stool softeners also are not as effective for chronic constipation, explains the Physicians' Desk Reference. For these reasons, an over-the-counter stool softener may not be as effectivefor severe constipation as other types of laxatives.
The National Institutes of Health states that stool softeners are for short-term use by people who, because of a medical condition, should not strain during bowel movements. They are also used to facilitate bowel movements in a person who has undergone surgery.
Besides stool softeners, other types of products for constipation include osmotic and stimulant laxatives. The main function of these laxativesis to increase the stool's hydration. Aperson with severe constipation may need quick relief. If this is the case, then stimulant laxatives may be more effective than the other types, suggests WebMD.
Laxatives should be for short-term use. If a person requires these products to stay regular, then he should see a doctor. Similarly, chronic constipation can be a symptom of a more serious condition.