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The Bedwetting Blues

Don't Get Mad, Get Help

Pills and Potions

When these behavioral approaches don't work, medication can be considered. The two most commonly used to treat bed-wetting are imipramine and Desmopressin.

Imipramine is an older antidepressant whose basic effect is to keep kids from reaching deep sleep. It's usually used in combination with the behavioral therapy methods above. In theory, children on this medicine will be more likely to awaken when they need to go to the bathroom. However, it has many troublesome side effects including nervousness, intestinal problems, and excessive tiredness during the day. And as with many medications, an overdose can be fatal.

The newer drug treatment, Desmopressin is a hormone that is chemically similar to ADH and works by inhibiting urine production. Taken before bedtime, it can help children make it through the night without wetting. It is available in nose drops, nasal spray, and tablet forms. Headaches, nausea, upset stomach, and nasal irritation (from the drop and spray forms) are the most common side effects. In some cases, depression, agitation, dizziness, and a reduction in the ability to produce tears can occur.

While using medications may sound easier than getting up every few hours, parents should be aware that they only have a success rate of around 50% and don't train the child's body to hold its urine on its own, says Greene. Therefore, many kids revert to bed-wetting after they stop taking the drugs. Still, these medicines can be a good option when a child faces an overnight trip away from home, at camp or a sleepover, for example.

The Taylors Stay Dry

The Taylor family never made a big issue when their kids wet the bed. Michelle and her husband felt it was important not to belittle them, to pressure them into stopping, or to compare them to peers who had already stopped. Instead, they had the girls wear training pants to bed and focused on praising them when they got through the night dry. "We really emphasized the positive, and never pushed the negative."

Michelle Taylor's oldest daughter stopped wetting the bed on her own shortly after her 6th birthday. The transition began with a few dry nights in a row, then a week, then a month, and finally the bed-wetting stopped altogether.

When younger daughter Tania didn't stop by age 6 1/2, Michelle started to look into sensor therapy. But before she could get the equipment, Tania's bed-wetting also stopped spontaneously.

"We felt that the better we could make the girls feel about the situation, the more likely it would clear up on its own," says Michelle. "And it did."

Will Wade, a San Francisco-based writer, was the co-founder of a monthly parenting magazine. His work has appeared in POV magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, and Salon. He is the father of a 5-year-old daughter.

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