Bedwetting Causes and Cures

I have two children -- a son, five, and a daughter, seven -- and neither one can make it through the night dry. When I got tired of changing their sheets I went back to using pull-ups. Now I'm wondering if I'm contributing to the problem by making it easy for them to not wake up and go to the bathroom at night. What treatment options are there and when should I start working on solving this problem?


Jennifer Trachtenberg

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg is a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is on the... Read more

Nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) is common among children and tends to run in families. It is usually embarrassing to the child (they are not wetting the bed on purpose) and frustrating to the parents. The natural history of bladder control is highly variable: 75 percent of children don't stay dry through the night until age three. By age five that number reaches 90 percent. Between the ages of five and nine the annual spontaneous cure rate is about 15 percent, meaning that the problem tends to go away with time, so please continue to be patient.

After the age of five there are some therapies you can try. Medication such as DDAVP (desmopressin acetate), a prescription nasal spray that boosts bladder control, can be used, however the relapse rate when the medicine is stopped is quite high. Bedwetting alarms have shown a high cure rate of about 75 percent, but there's typically a 25 percent relapse when the alarm is discontinued. The most effective cure appears to be bedwetting alarms combined with a motivational program that encourages a child to stay dry through a series of rewards and incentives. One such program that I recommend is the SleepDry program/SleepDry alarm. (To order or receive more info call 800-346-7283). Hang in there and remember to be supportive!

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