Home     Healthy Kids    

Is it time to call the urologist?

Could your child's bedwetting be a sign of a bigger problem

Is it time to call the urologist?

Every parent who's gone through the trials of potty training knows bedwetting accidents are bound to happen. But as your child gets older, how do you know if their bedwetting is typical or a symptom of something else?  

Bedwetting basics
Many parents of children who wet the bed often wonder: How old is too old? When should I be concerned?

Every child is different.  

"Most children are dry at night by age 6 but at this age, 10% of children will still have issues with bedwetting," says Dr. Steven J. Rowe, a board-certified urologist at Crystal Run Healthcare.

For children and parents who believe they have finally mastered the art of potty training, nighttime accidents can be frustrating and embarrassing. But Dr. Rowe insists that bedwetting at night is no cause for concern.

"As long as the wetting is only at night with no daytime wetting or other urinary symptoms, the bedwetting itself isn't concerning, though it can certainly be bothersome," says Dr. Rowe.

"It really is nothing you or your child has done," agrees Graceanna Carratu, a Poughkeepsie mom who's no stranger to potty training. "Their bodies are not ready yet."

READ MORE: Bedwetting 101

Why is my child wetting the bed?
Bedwetting, even in older children, can happen for several different reasons.

"Family history, slow development of brain or bladder control, making too much urine while asleep, sleep disorders, constipation and stress are the most common causes for bedwetting," says Dr. Rowe. If a child is constipated, the full rectum reduces the bladder's capacity. Sleep disorders that cause your child to sleep too deeply don't allow your child to wake up when he has the urge to urinate.

"Bedwetting can definitely be inherited," confirms Catherine Taranto, a Hopewell Junction mom of two recalling her own experience with her children. "I found out years later my dad had it as a child and I also had it."

Family traits of bedwetting can be comforting to share with your children. This makes them feel less alone and embarrassed by the behavior.  

Is it time to call the urologist?
Even though bedwetting is a common occurrence in childhood, parents who are worried may find comfort seeing a urologist for an evaluation or education to decrease the stress level in the home.

"If parents are stressed about it, the child feels the stress as well," says Dr. Rowe. "This is one place where a visit to a urologist can be helpful. Even when no active treatment is chosen, sometimes reassurance that the problem will go away with time is enough to decrease the stress level."

READ MORE: Special needs and trouble sleeping can go hand in hand.

"I first took my child at age four," says Carratu after noticing her child was dry throughout the day but was still wetting the bed every night. As a parent, Carratu encourages a visit to the urologist, saying it helped a great deal in decreasing the stress level. "I do have his urine tested, and have spoken in depth with his doctor and she is not concerned until after age 12."

Aside from normal bedwetting behavior, there are a few instances where bedwetting should be evaluated by a urologist as these they could be signs for underlying issues.

"If there is daytime wetting or other difficulty voiding during the day as well, this should be evaluated," says Dr. Rowe. "If a child stays dry at night and then starts wetting the bed again, this should also be evaluated."

Tricks for drier nights

Though bedwetting is completely normal, it doesn't mean your child is going to like waking up in a wet bed every night. Luckily, there are few tricks that you can try to reduce the chances of nighttime wetting.

"Reduce fluids starting several hours before bedtime. Treat any constipation issues your child has or create a schedule for urination to help take pressure off the bladder," says Dr. Rowe.

Another option parents have used in the past are bed alarms. This device works by detecting moisture and alerting your child with an auditory or tactile sensation to get up to use the bathroom. "When parents are interested in a bed alarm, I typically have them check out the Bedwetting Store website (BedwettingStore.com)," says Dr. Rowe.

Bed alarms can help children learn to detect the feeling of needing to go early before bedwetting occurs, but they are not always the best method for each child.

"I tried a bed alarm with my child and when it went off every night he would get scared and cry," says Taranto, recalling her experience with her son. "It's not fun to wake up with an alarm in your ear and he couldn't have sleepovers with the alarm."

The Bedwetting Store also has several other products and books related to bedwetting than can help parents looking for support. And there is always the option for extra bedding to prepare for nighttime changes.

READ MORE: Potty training advice from daycare professionals!

"Set aside an extra sheet, waterproof mattress pad, and change of clothes before each night," says Taranto. "That way if you have to do a midnight change you are ready to go."

Medicinal interventions
When all else has fails, prescription medications are available that have been proven very effective in reducing the occurrence of bedwetting.

"Treatments can help while you wait for the problem to resolve as your child gets older," assures Dr. Rowe.

Taranto also supports the use of medicine to reduce bedwetting. "I talked to my doctor and he suggested a nasal spray. Within a month it stopped the bedwetting," says Taranto. "My child was so excited. He was able to have sleepovers with his friends without anyone knowing about his problem."

Some parents are cautious about using medications and choose more natural techniques for dealing with bedwetting.

"We have turned down any type of medicinal intervention as I feel it is not a serious enough issue to give medications since there is no urinary issue otherwise," says Carratu. "I am just plowing through and hoping for the best...lots of washing!"

Your child needs your support
"The best thing is for parents to be aware that bedwetting isn't the child's fault," says Dr. Rowe. "They shouldn't be punished or teased."

Bedwetting can be traumatic for a child if they are not supported by the family, but with a little love and care, your child's issue does not have to cause him emotional stress.

"Everyone has been supportive in the family," says Carratu, encouraging parents not to worry and to seek support for themselves if they're looking for someone to talk to.
"Parent support groups would be good because though it is no one's fault, it is stressful."

Bothersome, stressful, annoying, embarrassing. However you describe bedwetting there is one thing to remember: your children's feelings come first and they cannot get through this stage in life without you!

Michelle Peterson is a freelance writer living in Poughkeepsie with her spouse and two sons. She's most recently pursued her dream of writing full-time with the support of her loving family and a great deal of coffee.