Intermittent Self-Catheterization (Female): Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Intermittent self-catheterization is a way to completely empty your bladder when you need to. You put a very thin tube called a catheter into your bladder. This lets the urine flow out. You may use a catheter if you have nerve damage, a problem with your urinary tract, an infection, or diseases that weaken your bladder muscles. Emptying your bladder regularly can prevent urine leaks during the day. It can also prevent kidney damage from blocked urine or infections.

You can empty your bladder every 4 to 6 hours, or as your doctor recommends. It takes practice to learn how to place the catheter. It may be uncomfortable at first, but it should not cause pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Note any signs that you may need to empty your bladder. These include swelling in your belly, a feeling of fullness, sweating, chills, or a headache.
  • Gather the supplies you need to insert the catheter. You will need the catheter, a container to hold the urine, and a mirror if you want to use one. You will also need a lubricating jelly, such as K-Y Jelly. This jelly dissolves in water. Do not use a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline.
    • Wash and dry your hands.
    • 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 between your legs.
    • Spread apart the lips of your pubic area. Clean the area well with soap and water.
    • Spread the lubricating jelly on the tip of the catheter. Put the other end of the catheter in the container.
    • Insert the catheter into the opening to the bladder until urine begins to flow out. Then insert it about 1 inch more.
    • Let the urine drain into the container.
    • Remove the catheter slowly. Wash it with warm, soapy water. Dry it and put it into a clean container.
    • Wash and dry your hands.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever not caused by the flu or other illness.
  • You have severe pain in your low back.
  • You have blood or pus in your urine.
  • Your urine is cloudy or smells bad.
  • You have pain or bleeding when you insert the catheter.
  • You have swelling in your belly.
  • You cannot empty your bladder with the catheter.

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

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: August 12, 2016