One cause for bedwetting is indeed heredity; children from families with a history of wetting the bed are more likely to become bedwetters themselves. Because a great deal of shame and stigma can be associated with wetting the bed, letting children know that the situation is not their fault is very important, whether or not the cause is hereditary. Being aware of a family history of bedwetting can also help parents think ahead when it comes to raising their children.
Enuresis, as it is formally known, can be caused by a number of factors. Doctors often differentiate between sudden bedwetting, in which someone unexpectedly starts wetting the bed, and a pattern of wetting the bed. Sudden bedwetting suggests that there is an emergent medical cause such as a urinary tract infection, while a child who has always wet the bed may be doing so because of heredity, or because of other factors.
In families with a history of wetting the bed or sleep disorders, it is very common for bedwetting to be inherited. Studies have shown that a child with one parent who wet the bed as a child has about a 44% chance of bedwetting. The likelihood of bedwetting increases to 77% with two parents who were bedwetters. Scientists have also found two genes that may predispose children to bedwetting.
There are several treatment options available to break children of the habit or to help children learn to control their bladders more quickly. Alarms which alert a child when moisture is present to cue the child to go to the bathroom are a common option. However, parents should be aware that bedwetting can also be the result of psychological stress or of incomplete bladder development, and these causes may require additional evaluation and different treatment.
If a child does start wetting the bed, he or she should be taken to a pediatrician. The doctor can take a family history, run some tests, and talk to the parents and the child to determine possible causes. It is important to identify a cause as this may impact the course of treatment; for example, sudden bedwetting as the result of an infection could be cured with a simple course of antibiotics, while bedwetting which results from psychological stress may require psychotherapy.
Wetting the bed is very common. Almost every child experiences at least one accident, especially early on in the potty training days, and children should be taught that they do not need to be ashamed if they wet the bed. If children develop anxieties as a result of bedwetting behavior, those anxieties can make the bedwetting more difficult to treat, and they can spill over into daytime behavior, contributing to behavioral problems which may interfere with learning and socialization.