Understanding How to Catheterize Males and Females

July 27,2021 |
Man and woman talking to their doctor

For our bodies to function optimally, all systems must work together to do their jobs. In most healthy adults, this happens involuntarily and without thought. When illness, injury, or chronic conditions are factored in, certain systems fail and, if not addressed, problems ensue. This is especially true when your body needs to dispense waste. If you’re unable to urinate, for whatever reason, the problem escalates quickly. Urine build-up in the bladder is not only uncomfortable, but also painful and dangerous. When you don’t urinate, the liquid can overflow and back up into your kidneys. You become more susceptible to infection and permanent damage, which will change how you live your daily life. To avoid these types of problems in those who cannot urinate on their own, catheterization is used. For a better understanding of this process, it’s essential to understand the differences between how to catheterize males and females.

What Are Urinary Catheters?

Urinary catheters are hollow, flexible tubes that are inserted directly into the urethra up to the bladder. The tube collects urine from the bladder as it’s formed and carries it out through the body and into a collection bag. Intermittent catheterization occurs when you insert a catheter to urinate multiple times throughout the day. In these instances, the tube may lead into a collection bag or directly into a waste bin such as a toilet or bedpan.

There are many different types of urinary catheters and finding the best one for you depends on your needs. Your doctor will work with you to find the type of catheter that works for your specific condition as well as your comfort levels. If you’re going to be performing intermittent self-catheterization, make sure you communicate with your doctor regarding any allergies, limitations, and discomfort during the process. Catheters come in different types of materials such as silicone, latex, or a combination of the two and are shaped differently to aid in insertion. Some of the main types of urinary catheters include:

As with any invasive medical device, catheters pose a certain risk of complications. Make sure that you discuss these with your doctor, especially if you’re prone to urinary tract infections. To reduce the risk of complications, always perform the proper hand hygiene prior to catheterizing and take some time to understand the importance of clean intermittent self-catheterization.

How to Catheterize Males

As mentioned, self-catherization is a safe, healthy way to empty your bladder if you’re unable to do so on your own. Catheters are used for nerve damage, urinary tract issues, disease, or common urologic conditions. They’re used by millions of men every year and are the best way to prevent serious problems or damage to your surrounding organs. Due to obvious anatomical differences, the way to catheterize males is different than the way to catheterize females. If you will be receiving an indwelling or foley catheter, it will be left in your bladder for the duration of your needs. This is often both inserted and removed by your doctor, leaving the responsibility of catheterization with them.

For those who will be using intermittent catheterization, you’ll need to learn how to proceed on your own. Certain catheters are single use, while others can be cleaned and reused as necessary. Your doctor will work with you to find the right products for your lifestyle and preferences.

Regardless of if you utilize single-use or reusable catheters, hygiene is absolutely essential. Clean intermittent self-catheterization helps to prevent infection and long-term damage. For help with the process, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to catheterize males.

  1. Gather Supplies

    The supplies that you’ll need for male catheterization include the catheter, a container to catch the urine if you’re not emptying into the toilet, lubricating jelly that’s water soluble, and soap and water.


  2. Sterilize Your Environment

    Sterilize the surface that you’ll be keeping the supplies on to perform the catherization so that there’s no cross-contamination. You can also place your supplies on a clean towel or in a plastic bag if you’re in a public bathroom.


  3. Wash Your Hands

    Wash your hands thoroughly using warm water and soap. Scrub for at least 20 seconds and make sure that you completely dry your hands.


  4. Clean Your Penis

    Using warm soap and water, thoroughly clean and rinse the end of your penis. If you’re not circumcised, make sure that you clean under the foreskin to avoid any transference of bacteria.


  5. Apply Lubricating Jelly

    Take the water-soluble lubricating jelly and spread it on the tip of the catheter, covering the first 7 to 10 inches. While you do not need to apply excess lubricating jelly to your penis, some men prefer doing so as added peace of mind. 


  6. Insert the Catheter

    Gently insert the catheter into the urethral opening on the tip of the penis. Continue to push the catheter into the urethra slowly until you notice urine drainage. Once urine flows, continue pushing about 2.5 centimeters further to ensure proper positioning near the bladder.


  7. Drain the Urine

    Allow all the urine in your bladder to drain out of the catheter into the drainage container or toilet. Take your time and make sure that your bladder is completely empty to help flush out bacteria and reduce the chance of infection.


  8. Remove Catheter

    Slowly remove the catheter from your urethra.


  9. Wash Your Hands

    Wash and dry your hands thoroughly following the process.


  10. Clean or Discard the Catheter

If you’re using a reusable catheter, make sure that you properly clean it after every use. Failure to do so can result in serious infections. Your doctor may give you a specific type of soap to use or recommend a household brand. If you’re using a disposable catheter, you can throw it away immediately after use.

Your doctor will help you through the process of catheterization while you’re in their office or at the hospital. This will ensure that you fully understand how to perform catherization before you leave. Use this time to ask any questions or get clarifications prior to performing self-catherization at home. At any time, if you have any problems, don’t hesitate to call your doctor back.

How to Catheterize Females

Female catheterization is done for many of the same reasons as male catheterization. However, the process of self-catheterization is a little different. To make sure that you’re emptying your bladder in a timely fashion, try to familiarize yourself with some of the signs that indicate bladder fullness. These cues can vary based on the intensity in which you need to urinate, so gaining an understanding of the initial signs is a good way to avoid complications of a bladder that’s overfilling. If you’re using self-catherization to help treat a urologic condition but feel like you can urinate on your own, try doing that first. If it doesn’t work, here’s how to catheterize females. Unless otherwise noted, the steps for female catheterization are the same as those listed for males.

  1. Gather Supplies

    The supplies that you’ll need for female catheterization include the catheter, a container to catch the urine, lubricating jelly that’s water soluble, a hand mirror to help guide the catheter into place, and soap and water.


  2. Sterilize Your Environment


  3. Wash Your Hands


  4. Get in a Comfortable Position

    The female urethra is a little more difficult to access than male urethras, which is why positioning is important. Find a position that is comfortable for you. Most women spread their legs or put one leg up on the toilet for self-catheterization. Other women have found that lying on their back with legs spread and bent—in the “frog” position—is a comfortable way to self-catheterize.


  5. Clean the Area Around the Urethra

    Clean the area around the urethra, making sure to spread both the labia majora and labia minora and clean thoroughly.


  6. Apply Lubricating Jelly

    Apply the lubricating jelly to the first 3 inches of the catheter to help increase comfort during self-catheterization.


  7. Insert the Catheter

    Using a mirror, find the urinary meatus and gently insert the catheter into your urethra. Continue to push the catheter into the urethra slowly until you notice urine drainage, which should be around 3 inches into the urethra. Once urine flows, continue pushing only about 1 inch more to ensure proper positioning near the bladder.


  8. Drain the Urine


  9. Remove the Catheter


  10. Wash Your Hands


  11. Clean or Discard the Catheter

While many of the steps in intermittent self-catheterization for females are similar to those used for catherization males, utilizing a comfortable position is going to make a big difference. If you have any questions or concerns, always reach out to your doctor for clarification.

Finding the Right Supplies for Self-Catheterization

While catheterization may seem intimidating at first, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Catheterization helps to avoid problems and lifestyle disturbances from urinary retention, urinary incontinence, surgical healing, and more. It’s a way to ensure that your body is functioning it’s best, regardless of what else is happening. If you have any questions or concerns regarding catheterization, always speak to your doctor. Byram Healthcare has a range of products to help make self-catheterization at home as comfortable as possible.