Bowel and bladder problems (including constipation, soiling, daytime wetting and bedwetting) are common in childhood, and it’s not unusual for teenagers to have them too. On this page you'll find some basic information about bowel and bladder conditions.

More information is available in our 'Help & Support' section, or you can download and read ERIC's free guides to wetting and soiling problems on our Guides to Children's Bowel and Bladder Problems page.

Bowel problems - constipation and soiling

  • Pooing less than four times a week is called constipation. Constipation happens when poo stays in the bowel too long and dries out. Having to push out a hard poo is painful and might make you want to avoid emptying your bowel.

  • Repeatedly avoiding going for a poo is called 'stool withholding'. It causes the hard lump of poo to build up in the bowel. Fresh 'overflow' poo can leak around the lump and into your pants - this is called soiling.

  • Pooing more than three times a day isn't right either and could be overflow poo. You might think you've got diarrhoea, when in fact you're constipated.

  • If your bowel is persistently full, your rectum (the lowest part of your bowel) stays stretched and the message that normally goes to your brain to say you need a poo doesn’t get sent. As a result, you might have no idea that you need to do a poo! 

Click here for more information on bowel problems 

Daytime wetting

  • Being constipated, i.e. having a bowel full of poo, can put pressure on the bladder and make wee (urine) leak out.

  • Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) in your bladder can also make you need a wee frequently. If you have a UTI, it might sting when you go for a pee, and your urine might also be cloudy and smelly. UTIs can be treated easily with medication.

  • Having an 'overactive' bladder can also cause daytime wetting. When the urge to pee is really strong, this sometimes causes wee to leak out before you reach the loo.

  • Repeatedly putting off going for a wee will eventually result in a really strong urge to empty the bladder and this can cause wetting accidents too.

  • If your pelvic floor muscles - the muscles that support your bladder - are weak, urine can leak out. Doing pelvic floor exercises can strengthen these muscles.

  • Wetting can also be caused if the two sets of bladder muscles which should keep you dry aren't working together properly (this is called 'dysfunctional voiding'). The first step is to work on your bladder health and check your bladder fills and empties correctly, or you might have to train your bladder muscles to work properly through a treatment called 'biofeedback'. 

Click here for more information on daytime wetting

Bedwetting

  • As with daytime wetting, being constipated, i.e. having a bowel full of poo, can put pressure on the bladder and make wee leak out during the night.

  • If your bladder can’t stretch enough to hold all the wee your body makes at night, you’ll either have to get up to go to the toilet, or, if you don’t wake up, you’ll wet the bed. This could be because you have an overactive bladder, because you’re not drinking enough during the day, or because you’re constipated.

  • Some people don't produce enough of the nighttime hormone 'vasopressin' which slows down the production of wee when you're asleep. If you don't have enough vasopressin, your body makes more wee than the bladder can hold during the night. You can take a medicine called 'desmopressin' to top up your levels of vasopressin.

  • When your bladder is full it sends a signal to your brain to tell you that it’s time to go for a wee. This even happens when you’re asleep. In some people, this signal doesn’t get through to the brain when they’re sleeping. Using a bedwetting alarm, which goes off as soon as you start weeing, can help train you to wake up when your bladder is full.

Click here for more information on bedwetting

Other useful links

You might find it useful to read the stories and experiences of other teenagers going through the same problems as you: 

Read other teenagers' stories

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to improve healthcare. You might want to look at the following documents:

Constipation in children and young people: diagnosis and management

Urinary tract infection in under 16s: diagnosis and management

Bedwetting in under 19s