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Intermittent Catheterization for Women

Topic Overview

Intermittent catheterization programs (ICPs) are often used when you have the ability to use a catheter yourself or someone can do it for you. You insert the catheter—a thin, flexible, hollow tube—through the urethra into the bladder and allow the urine to drain out. It is done at scheduled times, and the catheter is not permanent.

In general, an ICP requires that you limit your fluids. You and your doctor will figure out how much fluid you can consume each day and what times are best to use the catheter.

How to use the catheter

Following is a general outline of the procedure. Your rehabilitation (rehab) team or doctor will show you and/or a loved one how to perform a catheterization.

Preparation
  • Be sure you have everything you need. This typically includes a catheter, a mirror, a container to collect the urine, latex or other medical gloves, and cleansing equipment, such as cotton balls, paper towels, soap, and antiseptics. You may also want to use a water-based lubricant.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and put on the gloves. Gloves are optional.
  • Get into a position that is most comfortable for you and/or your caregiver. This is typically sitting or lying down.
  • Position the end of the catheter so that urine can flow out into a collection container. If you wish, lubricate the tip of the catheter.
  • Separate your vulval folds with your thumb and finger.
  • Wash the vulva area with soap and water. Wash from front to back.
  • Position the mirror between your legs so you can find the urinary opening. You should learn to do this without a mirror also.
Catheterization
  • Slowly insert the catheter into the urinary opening. If you feel resistance, pause for a few minutes and then gently press the catheter in again. If you cannot insert the catheter, do not force it. Stop, and call your doctor.
  • When urine begins to flow, insert the catheter about 1 in. (2.5 cm) more.
  • When the urine stops flowing, press your abdomen or tighten the abdomen muscles. This helps to completely empty the bladder.
  • Remove the catheter slowly. If urine begins to flow again, stop removing the catheter until the urine flow stops.
  • Wash your hands or take off the gloves.
  • Examine the urine. If it is cloudy, has blood in it, or there has been a change in color or odor, call your doctor.
Catheter care
  • Wash the catheter with soap and water, or put it in an antiseptic solution.
  • Rinse the catheter, inside and out, with clean water. Some people use a syringe to push soapy water through the catheter.
  • Dry the catheter. Place it on a clean towel, fold the towel over, and hang the towel on a rack.
  • When the catheter is dry, place it in a plastic bag.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Last Revised February 15, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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