There is nothing more stressful for children and their parents than the problem of bedwetting or enuresis in medical terms. It is also a childhood problem that is embarrassing, and unlike food allergies and asthma, is almost always kept private.
So what causes bedwetting?
There are medical explanations for bedwetting, including late maturation or deformity of the urinary bladder, urinary tract infections, sleeping disorders, hormonal problems (low anti-diuretic hormone levels), and take note – genetics. However, these account for only 3% of cases of bedwetting.
The majority of cases are actually more of psychological rather than physiological in nature. And psychological stress is the most likely culprit.
Children have different ways of reacting to or coping with stress. Stress is usually brought about by change, and change can be minor (e.g. move to a new residence or a new school) or major (change in family structure such as divorce, loss of a close loved one, etc.)
What is clear is that
- Bedwetting is more common than we think. “From 5 to 7 million kids wet the bed some or most nights — with twice as many boys wetting their bed as girls.“
- Bedwetting is not the child’s fault, e.g. laziness to get up to pee).
- Bedwetting comes and goes. Some kids who have been “dry” for months or years may suddenly relapse into bedwetting. Some kids never gain control of the bladder at nighttime until at a late age. In fact, according to this WedMD featured article, 15% of children still wet the bed at age 5, 12% at age 6, but 95% are dry by age 10.
- Bedwetting causes stress for both child and parents.
Is there something that can be done? Well, the first thing to do is find out the root cause, e.g. what causes the stress. Some sources of stress may not be overt, e.g. bullying at school, problems with the teacher, with schoolwork.
Dr. Howard Bennett is a pediatrician specialized in enuresis and wrote the book Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting gives the following practical tips:
- Encouraging a child to pee before bedtime.
- Restricting a child’s fluid intake before bed.
- Covering the mattress with plastic.
- Bed-wetting alarms. These alarms sense urine and wake a child so they can use the toilet.
- Bladder stretching exercises that may increase how much urine the bladder can hold.
Bedwetting is a problem that creates a vicious cycle. Stress causes the child to lose nighttime bladder control, causing stress to the parents and additional distress to the child, thus exacerbating the problem. As the child grows older, the problem becomes more socially unacceptable. Sleepovers and camps – these are just a few childhood situations where bedwetting outside the home can cause problems.
According to Dr. Bennett
Because bedwetting gets better on its own, “in the past, doctors often said to parents and kids, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ‘But if it’s causing anxiety or social problems, it’s important to know there are things families can do to make the situation better.”
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