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Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock (CHad)
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Causes of Bedwetting

We do not know exactly what causes enuresis. There may be several reasons your child may wet the bed, including:

  • Maturational delay: Many believe there is a delay in the maturation of the central nervous system. If the child is not aware of the sensation that his/her bladder is full while asleep and does not awaken to urinate, wetting will occur.
  • Genetic factors: Enuresis tends to run in families. Recently, scientists identified the gene that is associated with bedwetting in some children.

    The chances your child will wet are:
    • 15 percent if neither parent wet as a child
    • 40 percent if one parent wet as a child
    • 70 percent if both parents wet as children
  • Too much urine production at night: Normally, the body produces a hormone, called antidiuretic hormone or ADH that makes the body produce less urine at night. Studies have shown that some children who wet the bed do not make enough of this hormone. If the child does not make enough ADH, he/she may make more urine than the bladder can hold. If the child does not recognize that the bladder is full and wake up, wetting will occur.
  • A small bladder capacity: The bladder is unable to hold all the urine it produces.
  • Difficulty waking up from sleep. Although many parents report their children are very "sound sleepers", most studies have shown children who wet have normal sleep patterns. Children with enuresis do have difficulty waking up, which may indicate an arousal problem rather than a sleep problem.
  • Recent stress: such as a move, new school or sibling, death or a divorce in the family.
  • Medical problem: Although most children do not have a physical cause for their wetting, an underlying problem such as urinary tract infection, diabetes, bowel problems, or an upper airway obstruction can contribute to the problem.
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