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Self-Catheterization for Women


UPMC Content 2

A urinary catheter (KATH-eh-ter) is a tiny tube that is placed into the bladder to remove urine. The catheter is inserted through the body’s urethra (your-EETH-ruh). The urethra connects the bladder to the urinary opening on the outside of the body.

Intermittent catheterization

In some people, a catheter can be inserted to drain urine as needed and then removed right away. When this is done periodically, it is called intermittent (in-ter-MIT-tent) catheterization (kath-eh-ter-iz-AY-shun).

Many people can learn to do this on their own. Doing it yourself is called “self-catheterization.”

A “Clean” Procedure

When you “cath” yourself at home, it is called a “clean” procedure. This means you must keep everything as clean as possible. You will not need to sterilize anything.

Items You Need

Below is a list of the items you will need:

  • 2 clean wash cloths that are warm and wet
  • soap from a pump dispenser
  • a lubricant that is water soluble (such as K-Y Jelly® or Surgilube®)
  • a catheter
  • a pan to collect the urine
  • a dry pad or towel

How to Use the Catheter

  1. Gather all of the supplies you need.
  2. Wash your hands well.
  3. Choose a position to self-cath. To sit, sit on a paper towel or water-proof pad with your knees bent, or sit on the toilet. Or you may squat, lie on your back, or stand. If you can, learn to stand, in case toilets would be dirty or not available.
  4. With a wash cloth, wash the area of your body between your legs with soap and water. (Always wash from front to back to prevent infection.)
  5. Rinse with the second wash cloth.
  6. Put lubricant on the tip of the catheter.
  7. A mirror may help you to locate the urinary opening.
  8. Use one hand to spread the lips of the vagina, which are called the labia (LAY-bee-uh).
  9. With the other hand, hold the catheter about 1 inch from the tip. Direct it upward. Then push it into the urinary opening until urine flows.
  10. Allow urine to flow into the pan.
  11. When the urine flow stops, pull the catheter out.

You should do this procedure _______ times each day.

After You Remove the Catheter

After you pull out the catheter, follow your doctor’s instructions.

If you were told to use a new catheter each time:

  1. Do not try to clean and re-use the catheter.
  2. Be sure to use a new catheter each time you self-cath.

If you were told to re-use the catheter:

  1. Wash the catheter with soap and warm water. Rinse well.
  2. Air-dry the catheter by placing it on a clean paper towel.
  3. Use a new catheter each week.
  4. Do not soak the catheter in disinfectant. Do not microwave it. Do not boil it in water.
  5. In rare instances, your doctor may say to clean your catheter in boiling water for 20 minutes. Check with your doctor about this.

To Dispose of Catheters

Dispose of used catheters and soiled pads in a plastic bag, such as a grocery store bag. Tie it closed, and place it in your household trash.

Points to Remember

  • Drink _______ 8-ounce glasses of fluid each day.
  • If you notice any of the following, call your doctor or nurse:
    • blood in the urine
    • urine is a pinkish color
    • urine is cloudy
    • color of the urine changes
    • smell of the urine changes
    • pain near the catheter or bladder
    • leaking between self-cathing
  • Use this information only as advised by your doctor. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to talk with your doctor.
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