Urinary catheters are specialized medical devices who allow the drainage of urine for patients who cannot empty their bladders on their own, or who have limited mobility. Catheters are also effective in patients who suffer from urinary incontinence. Catheters are typically inserted in the urethral orifice by a medical professional, but self-catherization is a possibility in some cases. Depending on the catheter model or a patient’s medical condition, catheters can be used sporadically or for extended periods of time.
Women who need to use catheters should know the most important catheterization techniques as well as the proper catheter maintenance tricks. Similarly, knowing the safety procedures is critical, as improper catheterization can lead to infections and lesions. Self catheterization is not generally advised, and should only be done if a doctor has suggested that this is the best option for you. Here are the most important things to consider when trying self-catheterization for you or for a relative:
- Get a demonstration from a professional
Before starting self-catheterization you should try to learn the basic procedures. Generally, catheterization is done by nurses and doctors or medical professionals who follow strict procedures. There are a lot of resources online, both text, photo or video, but you’ll have to see a live insertion demonstration to fully understand the procedure. Make sure you ask a nurse or a doctor for a demonstration before leaving the hospital.
- Get your catheter and supplies
Your doctor will tell you exactly which type of catheter you should purchase. He or she will also specify how many to buy and how often should they be replaced. Generally, all medical supply or catheter stores have most types of catheters available in their stocks. Try to buy a few extra more catheters, so you have at least a spare available at all times. If in doubt, ask for a manual from the catheter’s manufacturer (some manufacturers provide DVDs, booklets and complete guides on how to use their products). If still in doubt, ask your doctor as soon as possible. Don’t forget to buy soap, sanitizing wipes and water soluble gel.
- Prepare and sanitize the area
Use soap and lukewarm water to wash your hands thoroughly. Cleanse the genital area with soap, water and sanitizing wipes. Always use a front to back movement to avoid introducing bacteria from the rectum to the vagina or urethra, in order to avoid urinary tract infections.
- Insert the catheter
Find a comfortable position while squatting over the toilet. Spread the lips of your vagina with one hand, while holding a mirror in the other hand to detect the opening (the urethra). Insert the lubricated catheter slowly in the orifice until you feel an obstruction. If you feel the need to urinate, stop the insertion procedure. Try to position the catheter so it won’t fall out of the orifice when the urine passes through.
- if you feel pain, stop the procedure immediately; try again after a couple of minutes;
- you will feel a little discomfort or slight pressure – this is normal – try to go slowly and patiently;
- if you cannot find the urethra, you should contact your doctor; in this case, an indwelling catheter may be necessary;
- Cleaning up
Use sanitizing wipes to clean your genital area and the outer part of the catheter. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds after each catheterization. This will help avoid spreading infections. Try to maintain your genital area clean during the whole treatment procedure, even when not catheterized. Generally, using soap and water is enough to fight common bacteria. If the catheter used is not single-use, clean it properly using a disinfectant solution and plenty of water. Rinse it and let it dry for several hours. Flush and clean the drainage bags (if they are not single-use) after each catheterization.