Self-Catheterization for Women

Self-catheterization helps you empty your bladder if it doesn’t empty by itself. It also helps if your bladder doesn’t empty all the way. Follow the steps below.

This is what you’ll need

  • Soap and warm water or a moist towelette

  • Water-soluble lubricating jelly ( not petroleum jelly)

  • Clean catheter (your healthcare provider will tell you the correct type and size)

  • Mirror

  • Toilet or basin

Step 1. Preparation

  • Gather all equipment needed.

  • Arrange your clothing so it's out of the way.

  • Wash your hands and your genitals. Use warm, soapy water or a moist towelette to clean your urethral opening. The urethra is the tube that drains urine from the bladder. Always wash from front to back.

Step 2. Lubricate the catheter

  • Lubricate 2 to 4 inches of the catheter tip. Some catheter kits contain lubricating solution inside the package. Place the other end in the toilet or basin. Use a measuring urinal if your provider wants you to measure your urine.

Closeup of hands applying lubricant to urinary catheter.
Lubricate catheter

Step 3. Insert the catheter

  • Spread the labia. Find the urethra with a mirror or your index finger. The urethra is located just above the vaginal opening.

  • Slowly put the catheter into your urethra about 2 to 4 inches. If it doesn’t go in, take a deep breath and bear down as if trying to urinate.

Closeup of vulva showing hands inserting catheter into urethra.
Insert catheter

Step 4. Empty urine

  • When the urine starts flowing, gently push the catheter in an additional ½ to 1 inch.

  • When the urine stops flowing, slowly remove the catheter.

Cross section of catheter in urethra, draining urine from bladder.
Empty urine

Step 5. Wash the catheter

A single-use catheter should only be used once and then thrown away. If yours can be used more than once:

  • Wash the catheter in mild soap and water.

  • Rinse it well. Run water through it. Then let it air-dry.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If you use a basin, wash it out.

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