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Self-Catheterization (Female)

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Self-Catheterization (Female)


What is self-catheterization?

Self-catheterization is a way to regularly empty your bladder. You insert a catheter through the urethra into the bladder. The catheter is not permanent.

How do you use a catheter at home?

When you need to empty your bladder, try to urinate first, if you can, before you use the catheter.

Gather the supplies you need to insert the catheter.

Bathroom sink area, showing supplies of hand soap, catheter, lubricating jelly, and mirror on clean cloth.
slide 1 of 4
slide 1 of 4, Gather the supplies you need to insert the catheter. ,

You will need:

  • The catheter.
  • A mirror, if you want to use one.
  • A container to hold the urine. (If you empty the urine right into the toilet, you won't need the container.)
  • Lubricating jelly, such as K-Y Jelly, that dissolves in water. Don't use a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline.

You may want to use a clean washcloth or towel, plus a bag or plastic tub to hold the supplies.

Be sure to wash and dry your hands.

Find and clean the area around the urethra.

Person spreading the labia and inserting catheter into the urethra opening, above the vagina.
slide 2 of 4
slide 2 of 4, Find and clean the area around the urethra.,
  1. Choose a comfortable position with your legs spread. You may want to put one leg up on the toilet. Or you can lie on your back with your legs bent and spread in a "frog" position. Place the urine container (if you are using one) between your legs.

  2. Separate the lips of your vulva (labia). Clean the area well with soap and water.

  3. Spread the lubricating jelly on the tip of the catheter. Put the other end of the catheter over the toilet bowl or in the container to catch the urine.

Insert the catheter.

Side view showing catheter inserted through the urethra and into the bladder.
slide 3 of 4
slide 3 of 4, Insert the catheter.,
  1. Gently insert the catheter into the urethra opening until urine begins to flow out. (You may want to use a mirror to see better.) Then insert it about 1 inch more.

  2. Let the urine drain into the container or the toilet.

Drain the bladder and remove the catheter.

Side view showing urine draining through the catheter, from the bladder into the toilet.
slide 4 of 4
slide 4 of 4, Drain the bladder and remove the catheter.,
  1. Remove the catheter slowly. If you are using a disposable catheter, throw it away. If not, wash it with warm, soapy water. Dry it and put it into a clean container.

  2. Wash and dry your hands.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
    • Blood or pus in your urine.
    • A fever.
  • Your urine smells bad.
  • You can't pass any urine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Related Information


Current as of: November 15, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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