By Roy Benaroch, MD
Unsuspected constipation may be a common cause of bedwetting in children—and treating constipation might just be one of the quickest and easiest ways to help children stay dry through the night.
In a small but impressive study published last year, researchers at a pediatric urology referral clinic performed simple abdominal x-rays on 30 children who were brought to the clinic for help with bedwetting. Of the 30 kids, 80% seemed to be constipated by the appearance of their x-rays, even though almost all of them denied symptoms of constipation. More impressively, when these constipated children were treated with a safe stool softener, over 80% had resolution of their bedwetting within three months.
We know that constipation can contribute to bedwetting in several ways. The hard stool presses on the bladder, reducing its capacity. Constipated children also seem to become less aware of the feeling of a full bladder. Most doctors probably ask about symptoms of constipation in children with bedwetting, but this study shows that asking alone may miss most of the constipated kids.
If your child is wetting the bed at night, consider constipation as a cause. Even children who have a bowel movement every day may be significantly constipated if they’re not emptying completely. A quick x-ray can help confirm if constipation is present. Or, it seems reasonable to me to give your child a trial of a stool softener. That’s safe and easy, and just might help!