an image representing a catheter

Self Catheterization

If you have a condition that causes you to have difficulty urinating or controlling your bladder, your doctor may recommend catheterization. This involves inserting a narrow tube through your urethra into your bladder so that urine drains out the tube.

It might sound difficult or even a little scary, but you can learn to do it yourself at home and most people find it gets easier in time. Your doctor or nurse should explain self catheterization, but below is an overview of what you can expect.

Preparation

Gather all your supplies before you begin, including a water-based lubricant such as KY jelly, a washcloth or baby wipe, and a container like a urinal if you don’t plan to catheterize yourself on the toilet. Women might also find a mirror helps so they can see where to insert the device, at least in the beginning. With practice, you’ll probably be able to do it without a mirror. Wash your hands with soap and water.

For Men

Sit in a comfortable position. If you are not circumcised, gently move back the foreskin. Wash the tip of your penis with a washcloth or baby wipe. Apply the water-based lubricant to the top two to three inches of the catheter. Hold your penis out straight with one hand and slowly insert the tubing into the opening at the end of the penis with the other hand until urine begins to drain from the tube. Then push the device in another two inches. Make sure the other end of the tubing is pointed at the toilet or urinal. When urine stops coming out of the tube, remove the catheter.

For Women

Sit or lie down with your knees bent and legs spread. Use a mirror if necessary to find your urinary meatus, the small hole where urine comes out. It’s located between your clitoris and vagina. Clean the area around the urinary meatus from front to back with a washcloth or baby wipe. Use one hand to separate the skin folds and slowly insert the catheter into the urinary meatus with the other hand until urine begins to drain from the tube. Then push the catheter in another inch. Make sure the other end of the catheter is pointed at the toilet or urinal. When urine stops coming out of the tube, remove the catheter.

Safety Tips

Wash your hands before and after catheterizing yourself. Also, wash your genital area before inserting a catheter. This helps prevent infection.

Always use a new, sterile device to catheterize yourself. If you use reusable catheters, make sure to wash them well with soap and water, using a disinfectant such as alcohol or hydrogen peroxide if approved by the manufacturer. Don’t reuse a catheter that seems dry, brittle, cracked, or otherwise damaged.

If you have difficulty inserting the device, don’t force it. Instead, remove it and try again. Using more lubricant may help. Contact your doctor if you experience pain, see blood in your urine or on the tubing, or have difficulty inserting it properly.

Last Updated: July 25, 2017