18th February 2020

Bedwetting occurs when a child old enough to control their bladder urinates while sleeping without knowing it. This can be embarrassing for children, especially as they may be able to use the toilet correctly during the day but have no control over their bladders at night. Usually, children will stop bedwetting by the time they are five or six years older, but this is not always the case.

Causes

Doctors aren’t certain about what causes bedwetting. Although there are a few theories which seem to mostly explain it, the general consensus is that bedwetting is a normal stage of development which the vast majority of children naturally grow out of. 

Below is a list of some medical problems which might be the underlying cause of bedwetting:

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

These infections commonly affect children. They are caused by harmful bacteria in the bladder or kidneys. It may result in a fever, pain when urinating, and urinating more frequently 

Constipation

The cause of bedwetting is not always a bladder problem. Having too much stool, or hard stool in the rectum can put pressure on the bladder and reduce its capacity. Many children who have received treatment for constipation have been cured of their bedwetting. 

Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition which affects a person’s blood sugar levels and causes them to be higher than they should be. Diabetes prevents your child’s body from processing glucose and sugars properly, and it can also lead to increased production of urine. Other symptoms may include feeling thirsty all the time, fatigue and weakness and frequent urination. 

Although parents may often suspect bedwetting is due to deeper medical or emotional issues, this is often not the case. One cause of bedwetting is genetics, as parents who wet the bed are more likely to have children who do the same.

Another common cause of bedwetting is deep sleep. Children will have a full bladder but because their nerve endings are not fully developed, they don’t send strong enough signals to the brain to wake from their deep sleep. Because children have small bladders – some much smaller than others, they can fill up quickly overnight.

How to deal with bedwetting

Although there might not always be a way to deal with bedwetting, it’s important to address it and provide emotional support for your child. Bedwetting can be extremely embarrassing for children and can lead to feelings of shame and anxiety. It might also deter children from going for sleepovers with their friends or attending overnight school trips. This can be upsetting for parents too, as they feel helpless in dealing with their children’s feeling of unhappiness.

It may be comforting for a child to be reassured that bedwetting is an entirely normal stage of growing up. If you or another family member used to wet the bed, it might put your child at ease to hear about it and realise that this happens to other people too. 

Encouraging children to drink more fluids during the day and less at night time may help to reduce the possibility of bedwetting. If this doesn’t work, doctors believe that an important stage is for children to help their parents removing wet sheets and putting on fresh ones. 

This isn’t punishment, but a way of helping your child understand the process and removing some feelings of guilt by allowing them to assist in removing the mess. If your child is still wetting the bed, it’s important to never punish them or show signs of frustration, as this may make the issue worse.

How you can do to help your child stop wetting the bed

  • Try to minimise consumption of caffeinated drinks, i.e fizzy drinks
  • Encourage your child to go to the toilet a final time before they sleep
  • Use a night light so that your child can make their way to the bathroom if they wake up to find their bed is wet
  • Place extra layers (towels, mattress covers) under your child’s sheets to avoid damaging your mattress
  • Thoroughly wash your child in the morning to remove any smell, teaching them to clean is important, they may feel less guilt or shame if they know they can always clean themselves up afterwards

When you should go to the doctor about your child’s bedwetting

As a general rule, you should always consult a doctor when your child begins to feel upset or concerned about something, or when they experience any abnormal or unexplained pains. 

You should definitely talk to your doctor if your child:

  • suddenly starts wetting the bed after being dry for a period of months
  • begins to have accidents during the day
  • is experiencing any pain while urinating
  • beings to urinate more frequently than usual
  • is still wetting the bed past six years of age
  • is feeling upset or anxious about the bedwetting
  • goes through episodes of feeling extremely hungry 
  • has blurred vision 
  • feels thirsty all the time
  • Is experiencing fatigue and weakness

If you have any questions about bedwetting and are looking to seek professional consultation, feel free to contact us to speak to a member of our expert team. All of our Consultant Urologist Surgeons have experience treating children and will be able to help them get better. If you are worried about how your child might feel about a trip to see a doctor, they also understand how to speak to children so will be able to put them at ease. 

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