Incontinence in Teens

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Teen wetting pants and bed

March 2012

My smart, well-behaved and outgoing 13 year-old daughter continues to wet her pants sometimes at school and wet the bed at home. She tries to hide the fact that she's wet her pants by ignoring or denying it, but the smell is unmistakable. I know that she is embarrassed and I have tried to gently talk to her about hygiene, why she can't make it to the bathroom and the fact that acting like it isn't there doesn't make it go away.

I am more concerned with her wetting her pants at school than with the bed wetting. I had thought we were past this, but there has been a lot of family strain recently with a pending divorce and I think the stress of that has affected her.

When she was younger, I took her to see two urologists and even took her to Children's Hospital in Oakland for a sonogram of her bladder. All tests showed everything was normal. However, she says that when she ''has to go'' she has to go right then and that she doesn't feel it coming on.

Has anyone had experience with this? I really want to help her, especially since the kids at school make fun of her when she ''smells''.
Single Mom of a Sweet and Smelly Girl

I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice, but I do suffer from urge incontinence, which is what it sounds like your daughter may have (possibly in combination with other issues). First of all, please have her discuss this with her doctor again--even if medical issues were ruled out years ago, her doctor should be able to help her manage this and even cure it, perhaps with behavior modification techniques, and perhaps with medication.

Two resources for you/her: UCSF has a wonderful incontinence center:, and WebMD has a brief description of some ways to manage urge incontinence: I can tell you from my experience, what helped the most was going to the bathroom MUCH more frequently (Tip # 2 on that WebMD page). Advise your daughter to go every time she has the chance, even if she doesn't feel like she needs to go. Over the years she has ''trained'' her body to think that urinating is an ''emergency'' and she now needs to retrain her body/mind. Tell her also to say to herself ''going to the bathroom is not an emergency''.

At school she probably has way less control over her schedule, so she should go each time between classes, even if she doesn't feel like it. I think this may be REALLY hard for her, as I recall the girl's bathroom scene in my high school could be really intimidating. Perhaps you can discuss with a school counselor or health professional strategies to help her find ways to go to the bathroom four or five times per day while she is at school--she needs to feel comfortable with where she can go, not feel rushed, and ideally be able to go on a schedule.

I happened to come upon this article a week after reading your post! This could be the answer!~ You MUST read this article about the effect of undiagnosed constipation on teen wetting. Apparently, even kids with regular bowel movements can be constipated.

The Real Reason Your Kid Wets the Bed By Steve Hodges, Suzanne Schlosberg Laurette