Dr. Amanda Lovette, Pediatrician
November is Bladder Health Month, and one common issue almost any parent can relate to when we discuss bladders in children is bedwetting. Anyone with a young child knows that bedwetting is just par for the course, something every parent signs up for when they raise a child. We assume that all children will be incontinent when they are very young infants and toddlers and that they will be nighttime potty trained by the time they are a few years old. This is how it usually works. But when is it considered abnormal to continue wetting the bed? How can we as parents help our children stop bedwetting?
What is the technical term for bedwetting?
Nocturnal enuresis (NE), or bedwetting, is defined as wetting the bed consistently beyond five years old. Most bedwetting is not caused by serious medical issues, and most children will outgrow it sometime within their childhood. These children sometimes can wet the bed until their early to mid-teens. Bedwetting can be very upsetting to children and their parents and the emotional impact is not insignificant. It is very important that you remember, and you tell your child, that bedwetting is not your child’s fault. They have no control over their wetting and they are doing nothing wrong to cause it.
Most children have primary NE, which is when a child has never been dry at night for more than a few months. Secondary NE is when bedwetting starts back up after at least six months of continence.
What causes bedwetting?
Bedwetting is often caused by simple things. The child who suffers from primary NE is often a very heavy sleeper who can only be woken at night with difficulty. He or she may have a parent that wet the bed as a child. Almost all children will outgrow this type of NE, though it may take years. Other causes of NE may include snoring or obstructive apnea, constipation, neurologic disease, diabetes, ADHD, and stress.
What are the treatment options available to my child for bedwetting?
Depending on the type of NE your child has, and how old your child is, your child’s physician may elect to do a workup to determine the cause of the bedwetting, or he or she may choose to watch and wait. The workup is varied based on the type and severity of the NE.
There are some treatments for bedwetting though they can be expensive and annoying. Bedwetting alarms help about half of the children when used correctly over weeks of training, but kids and parents often stop using them because they make so much noise at night! Medication can stop the bedwetting but doesn’t train the child to wake at night with a full bladder. And simple interventions, like not allowing any water or drink for one hour before bed, waking your child in the night to have him go to the bathroom, and considering low profile nighttime “diapers” for older kids at sleepovers are all options for children who bed wet.
The most important thing to remember is that most bedwetting is not serious and your child will eventually cure him- or herself of this condition. Be encouraging and supportive of them while they are struggling through this stage. And, most importantly, talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns, especially if your child is still bedwetting in his or her teen years.
To make an appointment at Delta Health Pediatrics, call 970.546.4000 or visit us online at deltahealthco.org/delta-health-pediatrics/.
Dr. Amanda Lovette is a Pediatrician at the Delta Health Pediatrics clinic located in Delta, Colorado. Lovette specializes in the general healthcare needs of infants, children and adolescents.