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Bedwetting: The facts

child in bed with mum reading a bed time story

Time To Take Action: World Bedwetting Day 2021

For World Bedwetting Day 2021 Bladder & Bowel UK are releasing a series of blogs to help increase understanding of a problem that is not often discussed, but causes stress and distress throughout the world to children, young people, and their families as well as some adults.

What is bedwetting?

Bedwetting is the leakage of urine during sleep. It is also known as enuresis or nocturnal enuresis and is a recognised medical condition. To be diagnosed with bedwetting the person affected must be over five years old. However, support and basic advice for bedwetting is available to families of younger children who are toilet trained in the day.

Does bedwetting get better with time?

Some children will ‘grow out’ of bedwetting. However, not only is it difficult to predict who will get better if no treatment is offered, but it is also not possible to say when the wetting will stop.  There is evidence that children who are wet every night, or most nights are the ones who are least likely to just get better without treatment.

How many children are affected by bedwetting?

The numbers of children with bedwetting does reduce as the children get older.  21% of  four-and-a-half-year-olds are wet less than two nights a week, and 8% are wet more than two nights a week.  At nine-and-a-half years old, about 8% are wetting the bed less than two nights a week and 1 ½% are wet more than two nights a week.

Does bedwetting affect older children and adults?

Bedwetting is not just a problem for younger children. ‘Primary enuresis’, which is the medical term given to bedwetting that has continued since toilet training, affects about 3% of adolescents and about ½ – 1% of adults.

What might become a problem after dry nights?

If bedwetting starts after a child, has been dry at night for at least six months, it is called ‘secondary enuresis’.  Sometimes there is an obvious trigger for this, like a urinary tract infection, but sometimes it is not possible to work out why it has started.   Rarely, there may also be an underlying medical issue, which needs treatment. That is why it is important to discuss any new bedwetting with a healthcare professional.

Is bedwetting a normal part of growing up?

Children cannot learn to be dry at night in the same way as they do during the day. To become dry at night the kidneys have to be able to reduce overnight urine production and the bladder has to be large enough and work well enough to be able to hold all the urine made at night. If these are not happening, the child has to be able to wake to the bladder signals and go to the toilet if they are to stay dry. Many children are not able to do this, so they get wet during sleep.

What treatment options are there for bedwetting?

If there is any constipation this will usually be treated first. That is because a constipated bowel can put pressure on the bladder and cause bedwetting. Daytime problems, such as dampness, wetting, having to get to the toilet in a hurry or using the toilet very frequently should also be addressed as these can affect how the bladder works at night. Many children will be asked to adjust their fluid intake and toileting habits to see if these help. Some children may need medication to treat daytime wetting.

If none of the above help, or if they are not needed, the first treatments offered will usually be either an alarm or a medicine called Desmopressin. Your Healthcare professional will talk to you about the options and help you and your child chose which treatment to try first.

Where can I find more information?

Bladder & Bowel UK is a national charity that provides information that is free to access, download and print about bladder and bowel conditions and management solutions for people of all ages on their website here. Information on bedwetting is available here.

There is also information on bedwetting on the Stop Bedwetting website. There is information about World Bedwetting Day available here.

Bladder & Bowel UK produce a free quarterly electronic newsletter for the public, which is full of interesting articles, suggestions and information for people affected by bladder and bowel conditions. To receive this fill in the form here and ask to be added to the mailing list.

You can contact the Bladder & Bowel UK confidential helpline by filling in the web form and a member of the team will get back to you.

This World Bedwetting Day, Take Action, and contact your healthcare professional if bedwetting is a problem for you or your child.

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