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 provider will tell you the correct type and size)

  • Mirror

  • Toilet or basin

Closeup of hands applying lubricant to urinary catheter.


Closeup of vulva showing hands inserting catheter into urethra.

Cross section of catheter in urethra, draining urine from bladder

Step 1. Preparation

  • Gather all equipment needed.

  • Arrange clothing so it is 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 inches 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.

Step 3. Insert the catheter

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

  • Slowly insert 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.

Step 4. Empty urine

  • When the urine starts flowing, gently advance an additional one-half to one inch.

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

Step 5. Wash the catheter

  • Wash the catheter in mild soap and water.

  • Rinse it well. Run water through it. Then let it air-dry. Certain catheters are single use only and should be thrown away after each use.

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