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How to Catheterize Yourself (Woman)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

How do I catheterize myself?

  • Try to urinate before you catheterize yourself.
  • Gather all the items you will need: Ask your healthcare provider where to get the supplies to catheterize yourself.
    • A clean catheter
    • Water-based lubricating jelly
    • Bowl or container to collect urine
    • Bowl of warm water, soap, washcloth, and hand towel
    • Mirror and good lighting
    • Waterproof pad or bath towel
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  • Get into position to insert your catheter: Lie or sit down with your legs open and knees bent. Put a towel or waterproof pad under you. You may also sit on the toilet or stand with one foot on the edge of the toilet. Make sure the other end of the catheter is pointed into a container or down toward the toilet.
  • Use a mirror to find your urinary meatus: Find your meatus (the opening where urine comes out) and vagina.
  • Clean yourself: Separate the outer skin folds around your urinary meatus. Wash from front to back with soap, warm water, and a washcloth. Do not scrub up and down. This could bring germs from your anus into the vagina and urethra and cause an infection. Rinse and dry.
  • Put water-based lubricating jelly on the first 3 inches of the catheter: This will help decrease discomfort during the procedure.
  • Insert the catheter:
    • Hold the labia apart with one hand. Slowly put the catheter into the meatus with your other hand.
    • Gently push the catheter about 3 inches into the urethra until urine begins to come out. Once urine starts to flow, push the catheter up 1 inch more and hold it in place until the urine stops.

  • Remove the catheter: When urine no longer comes out of the catheter, pinch it closed with the hand that was holding your labia. Gently and slowly pull the catheter out. Keep the end of the catheter up to prevent dribbling of urine.
  • Clean your catheter: If your catheter is reusable, follow your healthcare provider's instructions to clean it. If your catheter is a single-use catheter, throw it away.

When should I catheterize myself?

Catheterize yourself at least 4 times each day and at bedtime.

How can I help prevent an infection?

  • Wash your hands: Always wash your hands with soap and water before you catheterize yourself.
  • Clean and dry reusable catheters: Clean all reusable catheters with soap and warm water after every use. Sterilize all reusable catheters in a pan of boiling water for 20 minutes. Set the catheters on a clean paper towel to dry.
  • Store catheters correctly: Store dry catheters in a clean plastic bag. Throw away torn, hardened, or cracked catheters.
  • Wear cotton underwear: These allow airflow and keep your genital area dry.
  • Drink plenty of liquids: Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. This helps prevent a urinary infection.

What catheter problems may I have?

  • No urine comes out of the catheter: Use a mirror to make sure the catheter is in your urinary meatus and not in your vagina. If the catheter is in your vagina, remove it and insert a new catheter into the meatus. If your catheter is in the urinary meatus, gently rotate the catheter in case it is blocked. Gently push the catheter a little further up into the urethra or pull it back. Check also that the catheter opening is not blocked by lubricant or mucus.
  • Urine leaks between catheterizations or during sex: This may happen if you have been drinking more liquids than usual, especially those containing caffeine or alcohol. It could also mean that you have a bladder infection. If you have a problem with urine leakage, try catheterizing yourself more often. If you think you have an infection, contact your healthcare provider. Catheterize yourself before you have sex with your partner. Also, decrease the amount of liquids you normally drink 1 or 2 hours before sex.
  • You have difficulty inserting or removing the catheter: If you have pain or discomfort when you insert your catheter, use more lubricant. Pain or discomfort may also be caused by muscle spasms. It may help to take a deep breath and try to relax before you catheterize yourself. Breathe in, then insert or remove the catheter as you slowly let your breath out.
  • You have blood on the catheter or in your urine: This may happen if your meatus or urethra is too dry. Try using more lubricating jelly to prevent irritating your meatus and urethra. Make sure you drink enough liquids. Blood in the urine could also mean you have an infection.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your urine is thick, cloudy, or has mucus in it.
  • You have red specks in your urine, or your urine looks pink or red.
  • Your urine has a strong smell.
  • You have pain or burning in your bladder, abdomen, or in your urethra.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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