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Bed Wetting

Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) means a child passes urine in the night when they are asleep. Bedwetting is common. About 1 in 7 children aged five, and 1 in 20 children aged ten, are bedwetters. A child who has never been dry at night has 'primary nocturnal enuresis'. A child who has had dry nights, but then develops bedwetting has 'secondary nocturnal enuresis'. Bedwetting is twice as common in boys than girls.

In most children there is no specific cause. Factors that may contribute in some children include:

Small bladder capacity. Some children with bedwetting go to the toilet more often than average during the day. They tend not to be able to 'hold on', and have more 'overactive' bladders. This usually improves as the child gets older.

Hormone imbalance. Children with a bedwetting problem may not make as much hormone called ADH (antidiuretic hormone) at night as non-bedwetting children. This hormone reduces the amount of urine that you make. With less ADH, you tend to make more urine. This improves as the child gets older.

Bladder awareness at night. The child may also be less aware of a full bladder, and not wake up so easily to go to the toilet when their bladder is full. This tends to improve as the child gets older.

Genetic factors. Bedwetting often runs in families. About 1 in 7 children who are late in being dry have a parent, brother, or sister who also had this problem in childhood.

If trying without nappies fails at age three, try again a few months later. Treatments are not normally needed or advised for children under five. Keep trying every few months until successful. Disposable bed mats and bedtime pants are now available for age up to 7 from pharmacies.

Do not punish children for bedwetting. It is not their fault. If bedwetting appears after a period of dryness, it may reflect a hidden stress or fear (such as bullying at school, etc).

Reward your child if they achieve a goal. An agreed goal could be: going to the toilet before going to bed. A common example of a reward system is a star chart

In some cases your GP may prescribe medication, for example, Desmopressin for bedwetting.

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