Childhood Incontinence and Bedwetting

01 June, 2019
Normally, childhood incontinence, which is the act of urinating involuntarily resolves itself as children get older. However, if it persists then you must make changes in their lifestyle. 

Childhood incontinence, which refers to the act of urinating involuntarily, is also known as nocturnal enuresis. People with this condition are usually children, and they wet their beds while they sleep at night at an age when it shouldn’t happen anymore. However, this incontinence may not be limited to nightly episodes.

In addition, for these unfortunate events to be labeled as disease, they must consecutively repeat for at least twice a week during a minimum of three months in children over the age of four.

Incontinence is more frequent in males. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) data suggest that children who have prolonged enuresis often have lower self-esteem. Also, most agree that the incidences of bed-wetting decrease as children get older.

Childhood Incontinence and Nocturnal Enuresis

The Causes of Bedwetting

A woman about to pee in her pants.
Enuresis is a normal process in young children, and it often disappears as they grow up.

Childhood incontinence does not have a well-defined cause yet. However, there are several factors that may be key in its appearance:

  • A small bladder: In this case, the bladder is not well-developed and can’t contain the urine produced.
  • Inability to recognize the filling of the bladder: This may happen to z child that’s deeply asleep and doesn’t wake up when their bladder is full. It may happen because the nerves that control the bladder haven’t matured enough yet.
  • A lack of hormonal balance: This occurs when the individual doesn’t have sufficient production of the antidiuretic hormone or vasopressin.
  • A urinary tract infection: If this is the case, in addition to the action of urinating involuntarily in this type of infection, there’s reddish or pinkish urine and pain.
  • Sleep apnea: Sometimes, the act of urinating involuntarily is a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. This is a disorder in which the child’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.
  • Chronic constipation: The same muscles that are used to defecate are also used for urinating. Therefore, when there’s chronic constipation, these muscles may become dysfunctional and contribute to enuresis.

In addition to the causes mentioned above, this condition is often of a hereditary nature. So, if one of the parents of a child afflicted with enuresis also had it as children, then the chances of their children also having it increase.

Finally, it’s worth to mention that stressful situations also lead to the appearance of bedwetting among children.

You may be interested: 5 Foods to Avoid if You Have an Overactive Bladder

Symptoms and Complications

This condition poses no threat to a person’s health – as long as its cause isn’t physical. Involuntary urination is the main symptom here. Furthermore, it usually occurs during the night (hence the name”bedwetting”), and with a frequency of at least twice a month.

In regard to secondary effects, these are more of an emotional nature. This is because the child or the affected person may feel shame or loss of self-esteem due to this problem. For this reason, it’s important to be patient with them and assure them that it’ll get better over time.


On the contrary, if the enuresis is due to a physical problem and unresolved, then it could trigger complications. Furthermore, the child may also get rashes if they sleep with wet underwear.

Consider the use of diapers at night.

Read also: Everything You Need to Know about Overactive Bladder Syndrome

Childhood Incontinence: Treatment and Precautions

A toddler on a potty surrounded by diapers.
The first step to take care of this condition is to create good nightly habits.

To begin with, affected children should get in the habit of going to the bathroom at regular hours during the day and night. This to try to prevent enuresis.

Even though the problem usually goes away as the child matures, there should be changes in their lifestyle such as limiting their consumption of liquids before going to bed at night.

Then, if the above doesn’t help, the doctor can advise you on the use of humidity alarms. These are devices that connect to a moisture-sensitive compress. Then, it goes off when the child begins to urinate in order to wake them up.

Finally, only consider medications as a last resort. Besides their bad side effects, they merely delay the nocturnal production of urine and calm the bladder.

In addition to these measures, there are various precautions that might help you solve this little problem:

  • Encourage your child to urinate at least twice before going to bed.
  • Suggest and remind them to try to urinate approximately every two hours.
  • Prevent skin rashes by helping them clean first thing every morning.

In conclusion, although nocturnal enuresis is common in children and disappears as they grow older, it may still persist in some cases. Then, it’ll be necessary to consult your doctor.