self catheterization

During a study of nursing homes in the US, 39% of patients aged 65 years or over suffered from daytime urinary incontinence. As a result, many of these patients required catheterization.

Urinary catheters have been used for over 3500 years to drain the bladder when it fails to empty.

Today, more people are learning self-catheterization methods. Despite impaired bladder function, these patients can maintain their health and independence through a few easy steps.

New to self-cathing? Keep reading to learn the eight beginners' tips you need to succeed (and keep it clean).

1. Gather Your Supplies

Before you start, make sure you have all the proper equipment at hand. You don't want to begin the self-catheterization process only to realize you've forgotten something. 

You'll want to use the right catheter product for your needs. Make sure to speak with your doctor to determine the catheter that's ideal for you. For example, they might indicate you need an intermittent catheter or Foley catheter. 

There are many other brands and types to choose from, such as:

  • Hydrophilic catheters
  • Closed-system catheter kits
  • Pediatric catheters for kids
  • Coude-tipped catheters
  • Straight catheters

Using the right catheter can also improve your quality of life. In this study, using a single-use catheter was much easier for patients than using a multiple-use catheter. 

2. Keep a Sterile Environment

Once you have all of your equipment within reach, make sure you're in a sterile environment. Clean your home bathroom and keep it clean for future self-catheterization. 

If you're self-cathing away from home, it's a little more difficult, but not impossible. First, don't assume a public restroom is clean just because it looks clean. Instead, use antiseptic wipes to clean the area as much as possible before you start. 

Then, wash your hands thoroughly before starting the self-catheterization process. 

You might also choose to use gloves.

Some catheterization kits come with additional supplies. Use the cleaning supplies you have available to make sure your environment and the procedure is sterile. This can help you avoid possible infections during your self-catheterization.  

3. Maintain a Self-Cathing Schedule

Your healthcare professional will likely prescribe a self-cathing schedule, determined based on your condition.

It's important you maintain this self-catheterization schedule, as well as any additional instructions they provided. If you miss the scheduled self-cathing time, try to catheterize as soon as you're able.

In order to avoid falling off schedule, create or purchase a self-cathing kit. That way, you'll have everything you need within reach. The next time you're out and it's time to self-catheterize, you won't have to worry about needing your supplies. 

4. Stay Relaxed

Tensing up can make it difficult for you to insert the catheter. During the self-cathing process, it's important you don't force the catheter in. Though you might encounter resistance, take a soothing breath instead. 

Wait a few minutes, then try again. 

Coughing can sometimes help loosen our bladder sphincter as well. This can make it easier to insert the catheter without experiencing resistance. 

If you're using a straight intermittent catheter, it can help to use lubrication. In addition to helping you avoid resistance, lube can also keep the process comfortable and smooth.

There are also pre-lubricated, closed system catheters and hydrophilic-coated catheters. These catheters can provide a more comfortable and hygienic self-cathing experience. They're also more convenient if you're out while self-catheterizing. 

However, don't use petroleum jelly to lubricate your catheter. Instead, use a sterile, water-soluble product to reduce your chances of an infection. 

Again, make sure to check with your health provider about the best catheter to use for your condition.

5. Don't Reuse

For the most hygienic self-catheterization process, it's important you don't risk reusing your catheter. Instead, use a new and sterile catheter each time you self-catheterize. 

Intermittent catheters are only meant for a single use, so keep that in mind. You'll notice a stricken number 2 against the intermittents catheter's packaging indicating it's not meant for multi-use. Check for any other important symbols against the catheter's packaging before use as well. 

It's also important not to use someone else's catheters. Some catheters are prescribed based on specific conditions. Our bodies are also different, which could lead to one person using a different catheter than someone else. 

6. Know the Red Flags

There are a few underlying issues associated with self-catheterization that can make the process difficult or painful. If you experience any of the following issues, make sure to contact your healthcare professional. These issues include:

  • Painful insertion
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of urination for six to eight hours within your catheterization schedule
  • Blood in your urine
  • Signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection

If you notice pain or burning in the urethra, bladder, abdomen, or lower back, you might have an infection. Other symptoms include cloudy or smelly urine, burning sensations, fever, or chills. 

Make sure to speak to your healthcare professional immediately upon noticing these symptoms.

7. Stay Hydrated

Make the process of self-cathing as easy as possible for yourself. To start, make sure to drink plenty of clean water. Keeping hydrated is important for your urinary system as well as your body as a whole.  

8. Keep It Clean

Finally, it's important to keep your supplies clean. If you're using a Foley catheter, you'll want to avoid germs that could lead to a potential infection. It's important to clean your catheter twice a day, in the morning and evening. 

After washing your hands, use a soapy washcloth to wipe the tube and the area where the catheter goes into your body. Then, rinse the soap off and use a clean towel to dry the catheter and yourself. 

As you clean, make sure to check for signs of infection such as swelling or redness around the insertion site. 

A Good, Clean Start: 8 Beginners' Tips for Self-Catheterization

One last tip: don't worry! Self-catheterization gets easier with time. With practice, you'll become a pro.

Need to stock up on self-cathing supplies? Explore our Catheters collection today to find the supplies you need for self-catheterization.