Self-Catheterizing for Women

Self-Catheterization is Safe and Easy, When Performed Correctly

Catheterization for Women Healthwick
While the phrase ‘self-catheterization’ might sound a little intimidating, most people find it very easy to self-catheterize after a little practice. Intermittent catheters makes the process easier and more comfortable than it has ever been enabling you to simply get on with your daily life, however busy it might be.

You are not alone and many people of all ages self-catheterize every day. They include people with spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and various forms of bladder dysfunction. Some people were born with conditions that cause urinary retention and learn to self-catheterize from an early age.

Your doctor or nurse will advise you as to how often you should self-catheterize but generally it can be four to six times a day.

When practiced properly, even over long periods of time, self-catheterization is a safe and effective means of managing urinary retention. If you are having any problems inserting the catheter, or experiencing any symptoms of a urinary tract infection, please contact your doctor or nurse.

Step-By-Step Intermittent Catheterization for Women


Assembling your supplies for catheterization in advance will make the process faster and smoother. To self-catheterize, you will need:
  • A new, sterile catheter of the size and type recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Soap and water OR antibacterial hand cleaner.
  • A washcloth OR disposable perineal wipe (i.e. a disposable washcloth).
  • Lubricant, if your catheter isn’t pre-lubricated.
  • A container to catch the urine, if you’re not draining directly into a toilet.


  • Lay out the equipment so it is within easy reach.
  • Clean your hands thoroughly with soap and water or with antibacterial hand cleaner, before preparing your catheter.
  • Inspect catheter before use. If catheter or package is damaged, do not use.
  • Apply a liberal amount of lubricant to the first inch of the catheter, then place on a clean surface within reach.
  • Wash your perineum with soap, water and washcloth or with a disposable perineal wipe.
Tip: To be thoroughly clean, separate your labia and wipe only from front to back. If you need to wipe multiple times, use a clean wipe or area of the washcloth each time.
  • Position yourself comfortably. Arrange clothing so it is out of the way. If sitting on the toilet, spread your legs far apart. If lying down, bend knees and place your heels together in a “frog-like” position.
  • Using your non-dominant hand, separate the labia with the thumb and forefinger to locate the urethra.
  • With your dominant hand, insert the catheter gently into the urethral opening.
  • Continue to insert the catheter about 2 inches until urine begins to flow. If sitting on the toilet the urine can drain into the toilet. If lying down, place the funnel end of the catheter into a container to collect the urine. Hold it in place until urine stops flowing.
  • When urine stops flowing, slowly rotate the catheter between your fingers while withdrawing the catheter. If urine starts to flow again, stop withdrawing the catheter and let the urine drain.
  • When the bladder is empty, finish removing the catheter and dispose in your household waste.

Preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The most common symptoms of a urinary tract infection is pain or burning during urination or the feeling of urgency/feeling of needing to urinate frequently.

Some simple hygiene tips can help you to avoid urinary tract infections.
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Do not place your catheter on surfaces that are not clean or sterile
  • Empty your bladder at prescribed intervals to maintain lower bladder pressures
  • Use a sterile catheter for each catheterization
  • Wash and clean around the urethra
  • Keep skin clean and dry
  • Change clothing if it becomes soiled or wet
  • Wash hands before and after each catheterization

When to Call Your Healthcare Professional

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important that you contact your healthcare professional to discuss them, as they may be a sign of serious problems:
  • Blood in Urine
  • Burning in the urethral or pubic area
  • Chills
  • Urgent need to catheterize
  • Fever of 100.4° or higher
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Headache
  • Leakage between catheterizations
  • Low back pain
  • Nausea
  • Sediment or mucus in the urine
  • Elevation in blood pressure


If you're not sure on any of these self-catheterization steps, contact your healthcare provider for answers to your specific questions.