Dripping, Leaking, and More
Another frequent problem with potty training is not outright accidents but the very real possibility that your child is experiencing leaking or dripping. This can be frustrating and confusing for many parents, but it is a normal problem that can occur in children of any age up through adulthood. There are many possible causes to leaking, and parents often find themselves solving the problem without ever realizing what was happening.
Females often have a problem with urine traveling into their vagina during urination. This problem is more common in toddlers and young children because female toddlers often prefer to sit with their legs closed together while using a toilet or potty chair. This position often results from the unusual feeling of peeing or pooping outside of a diaper, the insecurity of sitting on a seat with a gaping hole, or simply a desire to cover parts that are usually covered by clothing. If you find this is a problem, work on teaching your daughter to sit with her legs spread. This position will increase her overall hygiene, give her better stability on the seat, and decrease the possibility of vaginal reflux, because her open legs will help spread her labia. It may help if you demonstrate sitting like this for her (although it is not uncommon for mothers to feel uncomfortable with this level of exposure). Another possibility is to have your daughter sit on the toilet before she reaches the point of urgency, and then help her find a way to spread her legs that results in a comfortable sitting position for her that will also result in the decreased possibility of vaginal reflux. If neither of these methods works, you can also try having your daughter sit backward on the toilet. While this is not the ideal long-term solution, it will help your daughter find her balance on the toilet while she finds comfort in keeping her legs spread while she urinates.
Like vaginal reflux, overactive bladders can affect people of all ages. Overactive bladders in toddlers are most often the result of a frequent, urgent need to use the bathroom. If your toddler experiences leaking or dripping as a result of an overactive bladder, chances are good she will not even sense the need to urinate before, during, or after the leaking itself. Most toddlers grow out of overactive bladders, but you may consider speaking to her pediatrician about further options if the problem persists as she nears her first day of school. There are drugs available to help people overcome overactive bladders, but these medicines are typically withheld unless necessary, and even then are mostly prescribed to adults with ongoing problems.
Urinary incontinence is the technical term for a condition when someone simply cannot hold her bladder. When dealing with incontinence in toddlers, it is first important to understand that, while it is a normal condition for people of all ages to experience, it is particularly common in toddlers who are first exploring the possibility of potty training. Incontinence typically disappears by the time toddlers reach the age of five. When a child needs to pee, the sac that stores urine (also known as the detrusor) contracts and eliminates. The sphincter muscles, which are otherwise tightened to avoid urinating, relax, thereby allowing a person to urinate. When a toddler experiences incontinence, this is either a sign that her nervous system has not yet matured enough for potty training or that she has an overactive bladder.
If your toddler is experiencing urinary incontinence and does not suffer from an overactive bladder, this may be another sign that she is not yet ready to begin potty training. Just as it is important for a child to be mentally prepared for the responsibility and education that comes with potty training, her body must also be ready to perform all of the functions necessary for proper potty training, including control over her sphincter muscles.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections, also known as UTIs, are a frequent cause of incontinence problems in women of all ages. UTIs occur when bacteria has made its way up the urethra and into the bladder. One common cause of UTIs in young girls is when they wipe back to front instead of front to back. Because urine does not normally contain bacteria, it is when bacteria is moved from one place in the genital/rectal area toward the urethra that an infection will most likely occur. Symptoms of a UTI include irritation of the urethra, bladder, or kidneys. If your child is not old enough or verbal enough to indicate these problems, you can also watch for general irritability, loss of appetite, or high fever. Visit your pediatrician if you suspect that your child may have a UTI. She may prescribe an antibiotic to help fight the infection, which will also help clear up any incontinence problems.