Enuresis is the medical term for bedwetting. This includes children who have always wet the bed (primary enuresis) plus secondary enuresis (which is when a child over 5 years has been dry for a consecutive period of six months and then starts wetting the bed again). Bedwetting is a common difficulty affecting over 25% of five year olds and 9% of ten year olds. It can be distressing for the children concerned so parents play an important role in providing encouragement and support - to help manage the bedwetting and get through it together.
What is enuresis?
Enuresis is the medical term for bedwetting. There are two types of nocturnal enuresis: Primary enuresis is when a child has always wet the bed. Secondary enuresis is when a child over five-years-old has been dry consecutively for 6 months and then begins wetting the bed again.
Bedwetting is a common condition. At age 5, bedwetting occurs in 1 in 4 children and at age 10, it occurs in 1 in 20. It can be distressing for the individual wetting the bed, so it’s important parents and carers offer bedwetting support and encouragement to help them through it.
What causes enuresis?
While each child will have their own experience, some of the common causes of bedwetting are:
Neurological development delay
If your child’s nervous system is still developing, their bladder may not be signalling the brain to wake up for a visit to the toilet when they are in a deep sleep.
Under-production of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH)
ADH is a hormone that reduces urine production while we sleep. Some children do not produce enough of this hormone, which causes their bladders to become full during the night. Although there are many useful techniques that can help you and your child manage bedwetting, if you’re worried, your GP can advise you about potential treatments.
In some instances, if both parents wet the bed as children, there's a 77% likelihood that their child will also experience bedwetting. This decreases to 43% if it’s just one parent, and 15% if neither of the parents experienced bedwetting as a child.
Small bladder capacity:
Encourage your child to drink an average of 6-8 glass of water-based fluids per day to keep them hydrated and improve the bladder’s capacity to hold more fluid. A delay in bladder development can result in a low capacity or overactive bladder during the night, which could be the cause of bedwetting.
Constipation and bedwetting:
Particularly in younger children, constipation can be the cause of bedwetting. An enlarged bowel can push against the bladder during the night and cause bedwetting. If you think this might be the case with your child, seek medical advice.
A urine infection can sometimes be the cause of enuresis. A urine infection can be identified if having a wee causes your child pain, or they are passing urine more frequently than usual. If you’re concerned about a urine infection, talk to your doctor immediately.