What is Bedwetting


Bedwetting simply refers to the uncontrollable passing of urine during sleep. It is treatable, unintentional, and very common in children. If your child is wetting the bed, it’s likely they are experiencing a minor developmental delay that affects their ability to hold in urine at night.

Even though it can be annoying to deal with the aftermath of bedwetting, it’s important to remember that your child not doing it out of laziness. Bedwetting is stressful, embarrassing and inconvenient for your child, too.

What causes bedwetting?

If your child is going through a bedwetting phase, you're probably wondering what's causing it. The short answer is that it's usually down to a minor developmental delay, which will straighten itself out over time. It's quite rare for bedwetting to be caused by an underlying medical condition. The most common form of bedwetting is called primary nocturnal enuresis. This refers to when a child has never been dry at night. Common causes are things like genetics, a neurological development delay between the bladder and brain, or the underproduction of the antidiuretic hormone ADH that signals to the kidneys to produce less urine at night. The other type of bedwetting is secondary nocturnal enuresis. This refers to a child who has been dry for six months or more, and then starts to wet the bed. This is typical the result of underlying medical issues or by emotional factors. For children with primary nocturnal enuresis, it means your child's bladder capacity has not developed to the point of being able to hold urine overnight. Children who wet the bed at night may have a nervous system that is slow to process the feeling of a full bladder. So your child does not wake up or respond to the messages sent from their bladder to their brain saying its full and needs emptying. As their body matures the messages sent from the bladder start to get through and your child learns to wake and go to the toilet. Most children who experience bedwetting haven't reached this developmental stage yet. But don't worry, they'll get there soon. While deep sleeping certainly plays a role in bedwetting it is not the primary cause of why it happens in the first place. Deep sleeping just makes it even harder for children to response to the signal sent from their bladder telling them to 'wake-up'. Secondary nocturnal enuresis is a little more complex. If your child has been dry at night for six months and they relapse back to bedwetting, it's often a sign of emotional problems or stress. Common catalysts include big events, such as moving house, a new sibling, or starting school. Stressful situations, including tension in the home, death of a family member or pet, or being bullied at school can also cause your child to start wetting the bed again. Other causes of secondary bedwetting include minor medical conditions, such as constipation or a urinary tract infection. In very rare cases, bedwetting can be caused by diabetes. One thing to remember through all of this is that the cause is never laziness. It's important to remain calm and not to take out any frustration on your child, even though it can be a real pain to change sheets every night. Provide some extra support to your child by using DryNites® Night Time Pants or BedMats. It gives them a little more independence and they're an effective safety net at night.

Read transcript +

Defining Bedwetting

In the medical world, bedwetting is called nocturnal enuresis. It comes in two major varieties – primary and secondary.

Primary Nocturnal Enuresis

Primary nocturnal enuresis refers to when your child has never been dry at night, and is the most common kind of bedwetting. Children usually develop the physiological tools to control their bladder by 4 years old, but that development can be delayed. This usually results in:

  • The inability to hold in urine all night
  • Not waking up when the bladder is full
  • Overproduction of urine
  • Not recognising the feeling of needing to go to the toilet

Secondary Nocturnal Enuresis

Secondary Nocturnal Enuresis is a little more difficult, and refers to when your child wets the bed after being dry for six months or more. It is often a result of significant emotional stress, but can also be an indicator of an underlying medical issue. If your child suddenly wets the bed after being dry for a long time, look out for:

  • Big life changes like a new school, house or sibling
  • Stressful situations like bullying at school, tension at home, or death in the family
  • Symptoms of minor medical conditions like constipation or urinary tract infections

    In very rare cases, secondary nocturnal enuresis can be a symptom of diabetes. Regardless, if you think your child’s bedwetting is problematic, a visit to the doctor is always good practice. Secondary Sources: www.emedicinehealth.com

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