Will My Child Ever Stop Wetting the Bed?

Bed wetting is a common problem in children from the age of potty training through the teenage years. Many parents don’t know when it is and isn’t “normal” or how to help the situation. This can lead to frustration in the parents and children involved, and over time can become a big self esteem issue for many children if left untreated as they get older.

The most common type of bedwetting is called primary nocturnal enuresis. This means simply, wetting that occurs only at night in a child who has never been dry at night for any significant length of time.

This is a common problem. At age 5, 15% of children are still wetting regularly at night. Each year after that about 15% of the remaining children stop wetting, so that by age 15 about 99% of children are dry at night.

The main problem in these children is simply that they are very deep sleepers and sleep through the signals of their bladder telling them it is full. These are the kids that sleep through their alarms many a morning. There is a familial component to this type of wetting. One or both parents of these children were often bedwetters.

What can be done about it? Well, for younger children, ages 6-7 or 8, bedwetting alarms can be something to try. They are available at pharmacies or online. TheBedWettingStore.com is one good resource for all kinds of bedwetting supplies. These alarms have two parts, a sensor and an alarm. The sensor often clips onto the front of the child’s pajamas or gets sewn into a pocket on the outside of the pajama bottom. As soon as the child starts to wet, it triggers the sensor. The alarms can be wired or wireless. Some clip on the neck of the pajamas, others go on like a wristwatch, some are bedside. The idea is that as soon as the child wets, the alarm goes off and either wakes the child, or gets the parent in there to help the child get to the bathroom and finish in the potty. About 80% of children will improve with a two to three month course of the alarm.

By the time the child is 7 or 8, often the child starts to become self conscious about the wetting. It can begin to interfere with sleepovers and camp. This is a time to consider medical treatment. For treatment, we usually use something called di-dearginine vasopressin (ddavp or desmopressin). This is a natural body hormone that decreases urine production temporarily. It is given at bedtime to help the child stay dry overnight. It doesn’t fix the problem though, only treats the symptom. As the child will eventually outgrow the wetting, we put the child on it typically for six months and then try them off. If they have outgrown the problem, great, if not they go back on it again for another six months. It works for about 80% of children. There are other medications that we can try such as imipramine for those that don’t respond to the ddavp.

If your child has been dry for a period of time and then started wetting again overnight, has daytime wetting in addition to nighttime wetting or has daytime or nighttime soiling, a more significant medical problem is likely the cause. Please consult your doctor if these symptoms occur in your child.
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