Is Bedwetting Genetic?

Study Links Genes to Bedwetting

Is Bedwetting Genetic?

In 2021, researchers from Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital identified genetic variants associated with bedwetting. The findings offer an entirely new understanding of the bodily processes that cause this common issue.

Many parents of a bedwetting child have wondered if the condition is inherited, especially if they experienced it themselves or know of a relative who had the same issue. Of course, not everyone will know if they have a relative who wet the bed, but understanding the genetic and hereditary aspects of bedwetting may help families support their child more effectively.

Does Bedwetting Run in Families?

Research shows that bedwetting, also known as nocutrnal enuresis, often runs in families. If one or both parents wet the bed as children, their children are more likely to experience bedwetting as well. Here are some noteworthy points:

  • Family History (Genetics): According to the Urology Care Foundation, half of all children who wet the bed had a parent who also experienced this issue. If both parents had enuresis, the likelihood increases to 75%. Even close relatives, such as aunts, uncles, and grandparents, may carry this gene, though it might not be widely known. In contrast, a child without any family history has only a 15% chance of bedwetting.
  • Twins: Identical (Monozygotic) twins are about twice as likely to both wet the bed compared to fraternal (Dizygotic) twins, indicating a stronger genetic link.
  • Sleep: Genetic factors can influence various aspects of sleep, including its duration, quality, and susceptibility to sleep disorders. Poor sleep quality and insufficient sleep can impair the brain’s ability to send signals to the bladder, leading to involuntary urination during sleep. Additionally, children with these genetic predispositions may have difficulty waking sufficiently to use the toilet.
  • ADHD: Children with multiple genetic variants that increase the risk of ADHD are particularly susceptible to developing bedwetting.

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Genetic Findings on Bedwetting

A large scientific study has, for the first time, found genetic variants that increase the risk of bedwetting (Jørgensen et al., 2021). These genes help regulate urine production, bladder activity, and sleep patterns. The results have been published in the scientific journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

“We identified two locations in the genome where specific genetic variants increase the risk of bedwetting. The potential causal genes we point to play roles in ensuring that our brain develops the ability to keep urine production down at night, that the bladder's activity is regulated and registered, and that we sleep in an appropriate way, among other things."

The study also showed that children with many genetic variants that increase the risk of ADHD are particularly vulnerable to developing bedwetting.

"Our findings don’t mean that ADHD causes bedwetting in a child, or vice versa, but just that the two conditions have common genetic causes. More research in this area will be able to clarify the details in the biological differences and similarities between the two disorders."

How to Manage Bedwetting When It's Genetic?

Sharing Bedwetting Experience

Sharing your own bedwetting experiences with your child can help them feel less alone. It’s also crucial to reassure your child that bedwetting is not their fault and that they are not doing anything wrong when it happens. Here are some conversation tips:

  • “When I was a child, I wet the bed too. It’s more common than you think!”
  • “I also used to wake up in a wet bed and didn’t know I had wet the bed until I woke up.”
  • “My parents thought I did it on purpose, but I didn’t. It happens, and it’s okay!”
  • “When I was a kid, people didn’t know as much about bedwetting as they do now. Let’s find out what can help.”
  • “You know, your uncle used to wet the bed too! It runs in the family, but we can figure this out together.”
  • “I used to worry about bedwetting just like you do, but look at us now! We’ll find a way to make it better.”

Can Genetic Bedwetting Be Helped?

Bedwetting can run in the family.

Even if a child is genetically predisposed to bedwetting, it doesn’t mean they will necessarily wet the bed. As Jane Hvarregaard Christensen, one of the researchers on the study, notes: “But you can still also have all the variants without wetting the bed at night, because there are other risk factors in play that we haven’t mapped yet – both genetic and environmental.” This highlights that while genetics play a role, other factors also contribute to whether or not a child will experience bedwetting.

Even if your child’s bedwetting is genetic, that doesn’t mean they can’t stop or that you can’t help them overcome it. There are many causes and triggers, so it’s worth gaining a good understanding of how you can help your child become dry at night. By taking a proactive approach, you can identify and address the various factors that contribute to bedwetting.

  • Consult Your Doctor: Rule out underlying medical conditions, including UTIs, Type 1 diabetes, and constipation.
  • Brain-Bladder Communication: Start talking about how the brain and bladder need to communicate, as this can be the missing link for some children. Discuss how the brain works and how the bladder functions. Talk about the sensations of having a full bladder—what does that feel like? Research what can cause or contribute to wet nights. If you need help with this, consider purchasing a comprehensive bedwetting program such as the Stay Dry at Night Bedwetting Solution, which covers both aspects and more.
  • Establish Routines: Encourage regular bathroom visits before bedtime and limit fluid intake in the evening, while making sure the child is very well hydrated during the day.
  • Focus on Good Sleep Habits: Ensure your child gets enough sleep and maintains a consistent sleep schedule. Good sleep hygiene can help reduce the chances of bedwetting.
  • Positive Patience: Achieving dry nights may take time, so it’s important for you to remain positive and encouraging.

Conclusion

Understanding that bedwetting can have a genetic basis helps parents approach the situation with greater empathy and patience, reducing feelings of guilt or frustration. Despite the genetic predisposition, many children can achieve dry nights through appropriate interventions and support. By consulting healthcare professionals, establishing good routines, and utilizing programs like Stay Dry at Night, parents can help their children overcome bedwetting.

Furthermore, it is important to recognize that not all bedwetting is related to genes; there are many other causes, such as psychological and emotional factors, constipation, poor toilet habits, a lack of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which reduces urine production at night, and even allergies can be potential contributors. Understanding these various causes can further guide effective treatment and support strategies.

If your child is between five and twelve years old and struggling with bedwetting, reach out to Ginny at Stay Dry at Night for support and guidance.

References

Aarhus University. (2021). Specific genes increase the risk of bedwetting

Bakwin, H. (1971). Enuresis in Twins. Am J Dis Child, 121(3), 222–225. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1971.02100140088007

Breinbjerg A, Jørgensen CS, Borg B, Rittig S, Kamperis K, Christensen JH. The genetics of incontinence: A scoping review. Clin Genet. 2023 Jul;104(1):22-62. doi: 10.1111/cge.14331. Epub 2023 Mar 27. PMID: 36973883.

Jørgensen, C. S., et al. (2021). Identification of genetic loci associated with nocturnal enuresis: a genome-wide association study. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 5(3), 201-209. doi:10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30350-3

Study finds genetic variants that increase the risk of bedwetting. (2021). Retrieved from News Medical

What Is Nocturnal Enuresis (Bedwetting)? https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/bed-wetting-(enuresis)

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