What you need to know:
- Expert says bed-wetting always occurs during sleep, but some experience the condition during the day.
- He says a bed-wetting child is not mentally or psychologically deprived.
- In adults, it could be the result of an underlying problem.
Saul Wangai was distraught when he went to boarding school.
He was afraid his secret would be out and he would be ridiculed by fellow students and teachers. Saul had a bed-wetting problem.
The 22-year-old has been wetting the bed since childhood.
“I cannot hold urine. I have tried in vain. I have been shamed and laughed at. I wish people understood it is not intentional,” he says. “All hell broke loose when my neighbours found out I wet the bed. They branded me a bed-wetter.”
At the boarding school, the situation was the same. He recalls being mocked by other students, forcing his parents to transfer him to different schools.
“My parents would buy me a new mattress every term. I had to be transferred from the neighbouring day school to a boarding because I was ashamed after my neighbours and friends from the estate found out,” he adds.
Urine resistant mattress
After staying at home for two years battling depression, his parents decided to enrol him to an adult school. “He is waiting to sit his national examination. His schooling has been tough. We had to take him to a mental institution because of emotional stress. I know parents who have children like mine. Please do not demean them. This is a condition,” says his mother Margaret Oludhe.
Oludhe realised her son had a problem when he was 15 years old. “I tried everything to stop him from bed-wetting, including denying him fluids at night, but it did not work,” she says.
She finally took her son to hospital. “That was when I was told of his condition. Since then, I have tried to help him. Sometimes he wears adult diapers. I could not allow him to use medication due to the side effects,” she adds.
For John Paul, the nightmare is no different. Bed-wetting has forced him to stay single. “My condition deprived me of my childhood. I was humiliated by my relatives. I cannot allow my children, if I will have any, to go through what I did. I could not get married because I cannot imagine being humiliated due to my condition. Throughout my childhood, I have battled serious depression due to bed-wetting,” says the 34-year-old.
Paul, an IT expert, says he is lucky to afford a urine resistant mattress.
“People with the condition should use this type of mattress to stop neighbours from ridiculing them. Bed-wetters go through a lot especially during their childhood. If only parents could understand us,” he adds.
According to Dr Hemed Twahir, a medical director at Aga Khan Hospital in Mombasa, scientifically, children wet their beds because of an unstable bladder or if they are deep sleepers.
Dr Twahir says there are more boys than girls who suffer from the condition. “But, there is always a strong genetic component to it and many of the parents whose children are bed-wetters will agree that there is usually a close relative who is a bed-wetter,” he says.
The paediatrician and kidney specialist says bed-wetting always occurs during sleep, but some experience the condition during the day.
However, a bed-wetting child is not mentally or psychologically deprived. He warns parents against linking their children’s condition to a mental illness.
“Many parents wonder whether their children are normal due to bed-wetting. This is not a mental problem,” stresses Dr Twahir.
However, he assured parents that as their children grow older the incidence of bed-wetting decreases.
Is adult bed-wetting a mental problem? “In most cases it is not a mental problem. We tend to see bed-wetting in women who have given birth since their pelvic floor muscles weaken because of repeated labour. But, there are certain exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Sometimes it requires a surgical operation. You will have to be accessed by a gynaecologist or a urologist,” says Dr Twahir.
He says underlying issues such as spinal cord problems or tumours could also be to blame for bed-wetting. “For young adults it is a problem that starts from childhood. But, it can stop by the age of 16. It tends to be genetic,” says Dr Twahir.
Asked how to treat the condition among adults, he says it depends on the individual cause. “If it does not stop by the age of 16, that is when one needs to see a specialist to rule out underlying issues,” he adds.
How do you treat bed-wetting among children? Dr Twahir scientists and doctors find that behaviour plays a big role in managing bed-wetting.
“Motivate and encourage your child instead of being harsh. Do not embarrass your child by reporting him or her to their grandparents or other relatives. Most of the bed-wetting children are traumatised, either by their parents being stressed or being teased by other children,” he says.
Punish a child
Dr Twahir further warns parents and guardians against physical punishing or verbally abusing their children. “He knows that he is bed wetting but he does not have control over his bladder. He is not to be blamed for bed wetting. By physically punishing the child, you are making the situation even worse,” warned the specialist.
The medical director says some parents have a tendency to wake up their children in the middle of the night and take them to the washroom to stop bed-wetting.
“This does not help. Waking up your child might actually be conditioning the minor that they need to empty their bladder in their sleep. Half of these children being taken to the bathroom are always half asleep so you might be teaching them to empty their bladders in their sleep,” warns the specialist.
He advises parents to ensure their children take more water during the day to increase the capacity of their bladders. “So that it (the bladder) learns to fill up during the day when the child has more control,” he says, urging parents to limit their children’s water intake at night.
Dr Twahir also encourages parents to buy a gadget that alerts their child whenever they pass urine.
He warns parents against using drugs on children under seven years, saying they have side effects, including severe headaches.