Is Bedwetting Genetic?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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The issue of whether bedwetting is genetic is quite complicated. While most people believe that nocturnal enuresis has an inherited component, from a scientific standpoint this is not exactly proven. Even with strong evidence suggesting inheritance, it can only be said that there’s a genetic link. Exact means of transmission is not known though statistics from one generation to the next are fairly easy to gather.

Most people identify two very common causes of bedwetting. One of these is developmental delay, which makes it hard for an immature bladder to “hold it” through the night. It ought to be stated that a number of developmental delays are clearly inherited. Thus this symptom of many of the potential developmental delays, bedwetting, might be inherited too.

The other most common cause is inheritance, even if precise mechanism of inheritance is not fully understood. Statistical evidence does, however, suggest that children with parents who were bedwetters are much more likely to suffer from this condition. In fact, in over 70% of bedwetting cases, both parents had this issue too. Moreover over 40% of cases are shown to have one parent who had bedwetting problems. More striking may be the fact that of all the people with bedwetting issues, only 15% didn’t have a parent who had the problem.


These statistics create what can be called a powerful genetic link that as yet is not a proven genetic link. One way to prove genetic basis is to identify a gene that causes it and be able to test for that gene. There is some scientific evidence that this gene could located on the 12th or 13th chromosome. Finding it is a laborious process. Specific mechanism of inheritance would also need to be determined. Why is it, for example, that a child with two parents who both suffered from bedwetting would fail to inherit the condition?

It should also be noted that a person with this disorder might not be solely suffering from an “inherited condition.” There are other clear causes of the disorder, which might have no genetic basis. A child who suddenly shows bedwetting symptoms after not having control issues at night could be suffering from a urinary tract infection, other illnesses, or could lack hormones that help urine concentrate. Another cause of nocturnal enuresis in kids that have usually not had this issue in the past is psychological stress. It’s not a good idea to dismiss recurrent problems in this area as simply benign because they were probably inherited. Instead, a check up with a doctor is warranted, to rule out other causes.


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Post 1

My son was not dry at night routinely until he was almost seven years old. I don't remember being a bedwetter myself, but my wife remembers skipping slumber parties because she might wet the bed.

We dutifully had him checked out for any medical issues, but there weren't any. He just wasn't ready to "hold it" and he didn't wake up if he had the urge to go. We just put those special bedwetting diapers on him that they make for big kids, and eventually they started to be dry in the morning.

It would be nice if we could figure out - and treat - every cause of bedwetting. In the meantime, though, I think it's important for parents facing this issue to relax, know that the child is not doing it "on purpose," and just wait it out. This, too, shall pass.

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