Bed wetting or nocturnal enuresis (its clinical name) is extremely common and more often than not is absolutely nothing to worry about and will in time resolve itself.
According to the website www.eric.org.co.uk it is estimated that around 500,000 children in the UK suffer from the condition. As reassuring as this statistic may be it doesn’t take away from the fact that bed wetting can have a huge impact on families. Parents can become frustrated and feel helpless or like they’ve failed in some way. Children become embarrassed or ashamed that this is still happening and the pressure begins to build on both the child and the parent creating a tense environment. Having spoken to many friends about bed wetting it seems that this subject is still very much a taboo, nobody wanting to admit that it’s an issue for their child.
It’s really important to understand though that a child wetting the bed is not due to laziness, it occurs involuntarily and is out of their control. It’s so important to reassure and comfort your child during this time so they feel supported. Stress can be a trigger for bed wetting, so staying as calm as possible will have a much better impact.
Bed wetting often runs in families and is more common amongst boys than girls. Having some knowledge of your family history could provide some reassurance, as it will give you an indication of when the bed wetting previously ceased. Life factors such as parents separating, starting a new school or moving house can cause a child to feel upset, anxious and unhappy, and these can all be triggers for bed wetting.
What Causes Bed Wetting?
The first thing to check if you have a child that has been both dry during the day and night but suddenly loses bladder control is to find out if they have a urinary tract infection. I made this mistake with my daughter and did the classic ‘you’re too busy playing and leaving it to the last minute and now you’ve had an accident!’ It wasn’t until her nursery teacher pointed out that she thought she had an infection did I make the connection, I felt like such a bad mother at the time but it was a lesson learned!
A few other symptoms that would also suggest a UTI are:
• Fishy smelling wee
• Difficulty or pain when weeing
• Constant thirst
Constipation can cause the bowel to enlarge which in turn presses against the bladder at night; this can result in bed wetting. If you’re aware that your child is constipated, taking a look at their diet and a visit to the doctors for an assessment could be a worthwhile trip. Resolving the constipation may help to prevent further bed wetting.
A hormone called vasopressin works on the kidneys and slows down the production of wee at night. If a child is not producing enough of this hormone then it can result in them generating too much urine for their bladder to handle. Children can take an artificial form of the vasopressin hormone; you would need to discuss this with your GP. Some indications that your child might not have enough vasopressin include:
• Wetting occurs every night
• Wetting occurs early in the night and often more than once a night
• There are consistently large patches of wee
• The child is unable to wake from sleep
• Lack of ability to rouse from sleep to signal that the bladder needs to empty
Medication should really be a last resort after all other options have been exhausted.
An Over-Active Bladder
This is when the signal from the bladder to the brain sends the message that it is at full capacity before it actually is. In these cases the bladder is unable to hold greater volumes of urine. Some indications that your child could possibly be suffering from an over- active bladder include:
• Urgency to wee during the day or frequency (I.e. needing to wee more than 8 times a day)
• Smaller patches of wee in the bed signalling that less wee is being produced.
• Wetting occurs more than once a night and the child wakes after wetting.
What can be done to Help Stop Bed Wetting?
It’s really important to make sure your child is drinking enough during the day. By restricting drinks the bladder gets used to dealing with only small amounts of fluids. This weakens the bladder meaning it is unable to hold fluids to its full capacity.
Avoid fizzy drinks, tea, coffee or drinking chocolate last thing at night, as these act as a stimulus for the kidneys to produce more urine than normal. If you suspect a particular drink is making it worse then try to cut it out. Two of my children tended to wet the bed after having apple juice so this drink is now banned after 4 pm!
A toilet stop before lights out to ensure the bladder is totally empty before bed time and making the route to the bathroom at night time as easy as possible. Leaving the bathroom light on or a night light in the hall could be helpful. If the bathroom is far away from their bedroom then a potty or a bucket in the room will mean less distance to travel, when they do get the urge to go!
Training the bladder during the day is also a good idea, set an alarm to ensure they are regularly going to the toilet. www.eric.org.uk suggest a vibrating watch can help remind children when it is time to go to the loo and research has shown this to be effective in reducing day time accidents.
It was when I was training to become a reflexologist that I stumbled upon the amazing effect it had on bed wetting. I used my son as one of my case studies who at the time was wetting the bed, once sometimes twice a night. After a few treatments he was completely dry!
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a gentle, non- invasive way of massaging the feet. Within the feet we have something called reflex areas and these areas relate to certain parts of the body. By working on specific points on the feet it can trigger the body in to helping itself. Reflexology is particularly soothing and calming for children as it can aid sleep, calm anxiety and help to reduce stress levels. All the things we see manifesting in children who are bedwetting.
Reflexology addresses the brain bladder connection, promotes strength of the bladder and assists the nervous system while helping to reduce tension in the child. It focuses on the endocrine system (hormones) and helps to bring balance as well as re-energising body systems. The amount of treatments required will vary depending on the child.
If you have a child who is bed wetting and would like some further information on Reflexology and its benefits, please get in touch.