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Discharge Instructions: Self-Catheterization for Women

Your doctor has prescribed self-catheterization for you because you are having trouble urinating naturally. This problem can be caused by injury, disease, infection, or other conditions.

Many people urinate by self-catheterization (also called intermittent catheterization). Self-catheterization simply means inserting a clean catheter (a thin, flexible tube) into the bladder to empty urine. Self-catheterization helps you empty your bladder when it won’t empty by itself or empty all the way. You were shown in the hospital how to perform self-catheterization. The steps below should help you remember how to do it properly.

Gather Your Supplies

You will need the following:

  • Soap and warm water or a moist towelette

  • Clean catheter

  • Water-soluble lubricating jelly (not Vaseline or other petroleum jelly)

  • Mirror

  • Toilet or basin

Get Ready

  • Wash your hands and your genital area. Use warm soapy water. You can also use a moist towelette. As always, wash from front to back.

  • Lubricate the catheter with the water-soluble lubricating jelly.

    • Lubricate 2 to 4 inches of the catheter tip.

    • Place the other end of the catheter over the toilet or basin.

Empty Your Bladder

  • Spread the labia (the lips or folds at the opening of your vagina). Use a mirror or your index finger to find the urethra (urinary tract opening).

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

  • If you feel a sharp pain, remove the catheter and try again.

  • Empty your bladder.

    • When the urine starts to flow, stop inserting the catheter.

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

Clean Up

  • Wash the catheter in mild soap and water.

  • Rinse the catheter well.

  • Run water through the catheter. Then let it air-dry.

  • Wash your hands. If you used a basin, wash it out.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4°F or higher, or chills

  • Burning in the urinary tract or pubic area

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Aching in the lower back

  • Sediment or mucus in the urine

  • Cloudy urine

  • Bloody (pink or red) or foul-smelling urine



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