Research has found that in South Africa, 1 in 6 children between the ages of 5 and 10 are bedwetters. Globally, at least 50% of these children are punished for this by their parents. This approach however is not only counterintuitive; given that bedwetting is something beyond the child’s control, but often exacerbates the negative psychological effects associated with this condition. The solution lies in ongoing support and encouragement; coupled with either conservative or proactive treatment methods.
This is the opinion of global speaker and medical doctor, Michael Mol who emphasises that “knowledge is power,” when it comes to understanding why children wet their beds, the impact it has on their mental wellbeing and how to manage it effectively. His parental advice that, “bedwetting is not your child’s fault,” comes ahead of World Bedwetting Day on 31 May and in line with Mental Health Awareness Month.
“While there are several physiological causes associated with bedwetting; including low production of the hormone vasopressin during sleep, small bladder capacity and poor sleep arousal, there is also a strong psychological component to consider. Secondary bedwetting, which affects at least 25% of bedwetters is linked to high levels of stress, anxiety and depression often brought on by divorce, parental disputes, bullying and abuse.
Studies have found that bedwetters are highly prone to developing depression, which can persist into adulthood. Children have also ranked bedwetting as the 3rd highest stressor, after divorce and parental fighting. Punishing children for bedwetting therefore worsens these psychological symptoms and, in most cases, increases instances of bedwetting rather than reducing them.”
– Dr Michael Mol
In a bid to empower parents with practical ways to help alleviate bedwetting, Dr Mol recommends 3 key methods, which are widely classified as ‘conservative.’
- These include encouraging fluid intake during the day but stopping all fluid intake at least 2 hours before bedtime. Parents should also avoid giving their children caffeinated drinks, which include hot chocolate, cocoa and energy drinks.
- Dr Mol is also a proponent of the use of absorbent pants as another method to help relieve the emotional worry that comes with bedwetting. DryNites® Pyjama Pants resemble normal underwear but include five absorbent layers that prevents leakage. As Dr Mol explains: “the biggest benefit of using this method is its ability to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with the ‘unknown,’ or the possibility of wetting the bed, which can cause shame and embarrassment. It also helps ensure that children get a good night’s rest, which is key to their mental health and physical development.”
- On this point, Mol urges parents not to engage in what doctors refer to as ‘lifting,’ or the practice of waking a child up after a few hours of sleep to use the toilet. Generally, this method proves ineffective as it essentially reinforces the practice of passing urine at night rather than helping children develop night-time bladder control.
There are also two proactive methods that parents can use if bedwetting is an ongoing concern for the family:
- These include the installation of bedwetting alarms, which involves placing a moisture sensor in the child’s pyjamas before bed. This method has proven effective in two-thirds of cases and can help the brain-bladder connection in children mature faster. Using it does however require a lot of motivation and can be disruptive to the sleep cycle of parents and other household members.
- The second proactive method involves the use of Desmopressin (DDAVP), a synthetic form of the vasopressin hormone administered as medication. This method has also proven successful in a large number of cases and directly addresses one of the main physiological causes of bedwetting.
As Mol concludes: “there is no blanketed approach to bedwetting that will work for all children. Treatment methods should be tailored to your child’s temperament, the needs of the household as well as how bedwetting affects your child. Typically, a combination of conservative or proactive interventions, combined with mental health support and therapy provides the most effective relief.”
Do you have a question? Ask expert Dr Michael Mol.