Dr. Gellner: Bedwetting is more common than you would think. But it's often something parents and kids don't want to talk about much because it's embarrassing. I'll talk about it on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.
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Dr. Gellner: We've all been there as a parent, either during the potty training phase or as the parent of a bedwetter. Waking in the middle of the night to change your child's sheets after they've wet the bed, no fun. Even though it can be normal in kids until the teenage years, it's seen as something wrong. Most kids who wet the bed think they're the only ones that do it and that makes them feel even worse. Children normally gain bladder control through the night at different ages. Most gain control by 5, but about 15% of children continue to wet the bed after that. And by age 10, 5% still don't have control.
Bedwetting affects millions of children. And more often, these are boys and there are others in the family who've had the same issue. Frustrated parents think a child is wetting the bed because they're too lazy to get up and pee in the toilet. Kids worry that there's something wrong with them if their friends or siblings tease them. They avoid sleepovers, and it really affects their social lives.
The best thing parents can do is let their child know that this isn't their fault. In fact, scientists have even identified the genes for delayed nighttime bladder control. And just FYI, they're on chromosomes 8, 12, and 13. That's why we see this run in families so much. And if a parent had this problem, letting their child know this, and when they finally stay dry, really helps their child understand what's going on with their own body, and that it's not their fault.
Genetics isn't the only factor. Sometimes bedwetting is based on how a child's brain and bladder talk to each other when they're asleep. Sometimes it takes longer for the two to learn how to communicate with each other. Sometimes it's because kids are really deep sleepers and the message from the bladder saying it's full doesn't get to the brain in time.
Some kids have constipation problems, and the stool literally pushes on the bladder causing uncontrolled bladder contractions, which released urine. In rare cases, bedwetting can be a sign of infection, sleep apnea, or diabetes. Regardless of the reason, the vast majority of kids who bed wet are medically healthy.
Some kids who have gained nighttime bladder control will relapse if there's a new stressor like moving, parents divorcing, or a new baby in the house. But usually kids regain control pretty quickly. Pediatricians don't get concerned about bedwetting until age six. And even then, it's only a problem if the child or parent is overly concerned.
There are ways you can help out your child, such as making them pee twice before bedtime, no drinks after dinner, biofeedback techniques, and medications if they're going over to sleepovers where wetting maybe particularly embarrassing. Eventually, bedwetters do gain control of their bladders. But if your child is over 12 and they are still wetting or this is causing a lot of stress to you or your child, be sure to talk to your child's pediatrician.
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