What is Bedwetting?
Children vary greatly in their ability to control their bladders at night. While most children stop bedwetting between the age of three and five years old, some may only reach this developmental stage much later.
It is quite normal for a child under the age of five to wet the bed occasionally, and boys often take longer than girls to become dry at night. ‘Accidents’ do happen and should be dealt with kindly and sensitively in order to prevent emotional pain, low self-esteem, and shame. Children who wet their beds should never be punished.
Although bedwetting is generally not a cause for great concern, it can be a strain on both parents and child, and as children get older, the problem tends to be associated with emotional stress.
If your child does wet the bed far beyond what is considered age-appropriate or starts wetting the bed after long periods of "dryness", it is advisable to seek a professional opinion to determine the underlying cause.
Approximately 20 percent of children over the age of five still wet their beds, and boys are generally more affected than girls. While most of these children will grow out of this phase before they reach puberty, a select few suffer from bedwetting (also called nocturnal enuresis) right through their teens and even into adulthood.
Adult bedwetting or even bedwetting that continues through the later years of childhood and adolescence can be extremely distressing and may lead to emotional and personal problems. Research also shows that bedwetting beyond the average age of nighttime bladder control is likely to run in families.
There are many ways to help your child if bedwetting is a concern, so explore the treatment options to determine which would best suit your child.
When Should I Worry About Bedwetting?
By age 7, most children who still wet their bed begin to feel embarrassed and ashamed about their problem. It may become limiting, as these children will often avoid partaking in certain activities like sleeping out or camping, for fear that they might wet their bed. At the same time, it may also become a struggle for parents dealing with continuous bedding changes, wet mattresses, and an anxious child. There are many treatment options that can be explored should bedwetting be a concern.
Contact your GP or complementary health professional if bedwetting is regular and persistent or if a child suddenly starts wetting the bed again after a long period of nighttime dryness. Your child should then be evaluated and you will be advised of the appropriate steps to take.
What Causes Bedwetting?
Bedwetting is usually caused by an immature bladder or the inability to wake up due to very deep sleep states. In both cases, this is typically something your child will grow out of in time as the bladder matures and the mind becomes more sensitive to the bodies’ cues to wake up.
Help for Bedwetting
Your doctor will begin by getting a detailed history of your child’s bedwetting, as well as any other symptoms that might be experienced. Depending on the circumstances, a full medical check, including urine analysis and blood tests, may be done to rule out medical conditions such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection. If your doctor suspects a physical abnormality, an X-ray or scan of the kidneys and bladder may be done or you may be referred to an urologist for further testing. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and the seriousness of the problem.
A number of treatment options are available to help treat bedwetting, including behavioral changes, moisture alarms, drug treatment, psychotherapy, and natural remedies. Pick a treatment option that best suits your child and family.
Certain herbal and homeopathic remedies have been successfully used to treat bedwetting. The Asian herb Equisetum has been widely used to tone and strengthen a weak bladder and urinary tract tissue, while decreasing anxiety.
Herbs such as Hypericum performatum and Passiflora also have traditional and clinical support for the treatment of childhood depression and anxiety – without the negative consequences of prescription drugs. The benefit of taking the natural route to curing bedwetting is that it is gentle and 100% safe for your child – so you don’t have to worry about any concerning side effects.
Because most children grow out of bedwetting by themselves, sometimes simple behavioral and routine changes may be enough to break the bed-wetting cycle. Try limiting fluid intake before bed and ensuring that your child makes a trip to the bathroom and empties his or her bladder right before lights-out. During the day, encourage your child to urinate only when he or she really needs to. This will help to stretch the bladder so that it can hold more urine.
There are a variety of bedwetting alarms that can be bought at most pharmacies. These devices have moisture-sensitive pads that can be slipped into your child’s pajamas or bedding that sound off an alarm as soon as moisture is detected. In many children, this is enough to wake them as they begin to urinate, and they can then quickly get to the toilet. In very deep sleepers, a parent may need to go wake the child on hearing the alarm. The body soon learns that wetting the bed means waking up, and so it begins to wake up by itself. These devices have been very successful, and although they may take up to 12 weeks to show positive results, they have a good long-term affect with a very low relapse rate.
Some health care practitioners may prescribe various drug treatments to help prevent bedwetting. These medications are somewhat controversial as some have very serious side effects and most only offer short-term immediate relief. Once medication is stopped, bedwetting usually returns.
It is strongly advised that you thoroughly research any prescription medication and its side effects before agreeing to drug therapy, especially in the case of young children.
Psychotherapy and parent counseling can be very helpful in cases of persistent bedwetting. Intervention may range from simple behavioral modification programs to play therapy in cases of underlying depression and anxiety.