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Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) fact sheet

Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis)

Bedwetting (also called nocturnal enuresis) occurs when a child empties their bladder while sleeping. It’s a common problem affecting many young children and can be caused by factors including:

  • genetics – bedwetting tends to run in the family. If one or both parents or an aunt or uncle wet the bed, then it’s more likely the child will too.
  • smallish bladder – the bladder can’t hold enough urine overnight.
  • deep sleeper – some children sleep very deeply and simply don’t wake up when they need to go to the toilet.
  • kidneys produce too much urine at night – overnight there is usually a decrease in urine volume but in some children this doesn’t occur.

Most children will grow out of bedwetting and it’s important to know that the child isn’t lazy or doing it to get attention. They just don’t wake up when their bladder is full or have adequate control yet.

When should you seek medical help?

Bedwetting isn’t generally caused by a physical problem but it’s a good idea to have a doctor examine your child if it becomes an ongoing issue. This will ensure any underlying problems are identified and appropriate treatment can be recommended.

You may wish to see a doctor if:

  • your child is at least six years old (younger children will often improve without treatment)
  • the bedwetting is upsetting or frustrating your child
  • your child begins wetting after being dry for an extended period of time
  • your child wets or has bowel movements in his/her pants during the day

What is the treatment?

Most children will not require medication or surgery to stop them bedwetting. However, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan which may include the following strategies:

  • keeping a chart that records your child’s dry and wet nights. Your child can create and maintain the chart using stars and colours, etc.
  • a bedwetting alarm to wake your child and teach them to recognise when their bladder is full
  • changing habits and exercises.

Care at home

Children will often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their bedwetting. It’s important to reassure them that many children will wet their bed and it’s very common. Asking siblings and other family members to be encouraging will also help your child to feel supported as they learn to stay to dry at night.

Contact us

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Useful websites

Continence Foundation of Australia | http://www.continence.org.au/pages/bedwetting.html

Resource No: FS148. Developed by Department of Medicine. Updated: October 2016. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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