Conflicting messages and half-truths such as these have done much to transform bed-wetting into a frustrating, taboo issue. So what should you believe? We separate fact from fallacy:
Children wet the bed to get attention.
Absolutely false. “The last thing [children who wet the bed] want is attention,” says Amy Dunlop, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the Christie Clinic in
Instead, bed-wetting is a medical condition where children, usually at night, are unable to control their bladders from releasing urine. Fortunately, several effective treatments are available.
Too much water before bedtime causes bed-wetting.
False again. Restricting a child’s liquid intake after seldom alters the frequency of bed-wetting. Cutting back on liquids may reduce the volume of urine released, resulting in a “less wet” bed and false hope, but it will not actually stop the act of bed-wetting. What does prevent bed-wetting is ADH, a hormone produced by the body that slows down urine production at night so the bladder does not overfill. Some kids wet the bed simply because their bodies do not produce enough of the urine-curbing hormone ADH. For them, health-care providers will usually prescribe DDAVP (or desmopressin), a synthetic version of ADH available in nasal spray or tablet form.
Bed-wetting is hereditary.
Yes, children who wet the bed are likely to have close relatives who struggled with bed-wetting when they were younger. In 1995, Danish researchers writing in the German medical journal Nature Genetics claimed they had found evidence of a gene that may cause many cases of childhood bed-wetting. Since then, researchers have identified two genes – ENUR1 and ENUR2 – that often appear on the chromosomes of those who wet the bed as children. Researchers believe these genes affect either how much urine a child produces at night or how easily they can wake up when their bladders are full and need to be emptied.
Kids outgrow bed-wetting.
While it’s true that many kids do stop wetting the bed by their sixth birthday, up to 7 million don’t. About 85 percent of these children will continue to wet the bed at age 7, if treatment is not sought.
“For many, bed-wetting is not a phase to be outgrown. It is a condition for which there are many treatments,” says Seth Schulman, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and surgery at the
Bed-wetting is more common in boys than girls.
True. Males account for about 70 percent of young bed-wetters. In fact, nearly one-third of all boys wet the bed for several years after they’ve been completely potty-trained. Researchers have been unable to explain this phenomenon, but some theorize that it has much to do with girls maturing faster physically than boys.
Health-care providers inquire about bed-wetting at every well-child checkup.
No, say most parents. In a new survey on bed-wetting, 53 percent of the parents polled said their health-care providers rarely discuss the issue of bed-wetting, according to data from the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the Dysfunctional Outpatient Voiding Education (DOVE) Center at The Children’s
The solution to this concern is simple, says pediatric urologist Marc Cendron, M.D. “All health-care providers need to ask during checkups is: ‘Is your child dry?’ If they don’t, parents shouldn’t be afraid to bring it up. After all, there’s nothing shameful about wanting the best for your child.”
Bed-Wetting: The Common Condition We Don’t Want to Talk About