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Bedwetting: the causes

There are a number of causes of bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis), and sometimes there may be more than one underlying cause.

Overactive bladder

An overactive bladder is a common cause of bedwetting. This is when the bladder wants to expel urine before it is full. An overactive bladder often causes urge incontinence, where the child has a sudden urge to urinate and is unable to delay urination

Underlying health conditions

Bedwetting can also be caused by a number of underlying health conditions. For example:

  • Congenital abnormalities (present at birth) such as an ectopic ureter (where the tube through which urine passes does not lead to the bladder)
  • Neurological disorders such as spina bifida (a condition that affects the development of the spine and nervous system)

Other causes

Bedwetting may simply be caused by drinking too much fluid. It can also be the result of a number of chronic (long term) conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Emotional problems

In some cases, bedwetting can be a sign that the child is upset or worried. Starting a new school, being bullied or the arrival of a new baby in the family can all be stressful for a young child.

If the child has started wetting the bed after being dry for a period of six months or more (secondary nocturnal enuresis), it is likely that stress or anxiety is causing it.