10 Steps to Self-Catheterization

Laura Cox, LPC
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
03/21/16  2:23 PM PST
how to use an intermittent catheter

Although intermittent self-catheterization may be more intimidating than a Foley (indwelling) catheter, there are some definite advantages of intermittent catheterization if it is an option for you. The biggest advantage of self-catheterization is having the freedom to choose when and where to empty your bladder, giving you more control over your life. Using a single-use intermittent catheter also reduces the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) compared to an indwelling catheter.

Follow these 10 steps for safe, simple self-catheterization:

How to use an Intermittent Catheter (illustrations below)

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Set out all necessary supplies – these can include a mirror, the catheter, water, soap and/or a sterile wipe.
  3. Position yourself in front of the toilet or in front of a collection container.
  4. Wash or sterilize around the urethra. For women, wash from front to back, never re-using a wipe. For men, wash in a circular motion, starting at the urethra and working your way out.
  5. Open the catheter. To keep the catheter as clean as possible, do not allow the catheter to touch anything once you pull it out of the wrapping.
  6. Apply lubricant to the catheter if applicable.
  7. For women, gently open the labia with your fingers. For men, hold penis straight out from the body and angled slightly upward toward your body and gently squeeze the head of the penis to very gently to open the urethra.
  8. Insert the clean or sterile catheter until urine begins to flow. Gently push the catheter about one inch further into the bladder after urine begins to flow.
  9. When the urine stops flowing, shift position a few times to ensure all urine is emptied, then slowly remove the catheter
  10. Wipe the insertion site of any urine, throw away the catheter and wash your hands.

How to use an Intermittent Catheter 1

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How Frequently Should I Self-Catheterize?

In most cases, you should self-catheterize about every 4-6 hours in a clean environment. It is also recommended to catheterize before going to sleep and directly after waking up. This will help to prevent distention of the bladder. Self-catheterizing on a regular schedule 4-6 times a day will also reduce your risk of UTIs and bladder infections from urine sitting in the bladder for extended periods of time (source: https://www.urotoday.com/tags/clean-technique-self-catheterization.html).

This article was written by a contributing author for Shield HealthCare. This information does not replace the advice of a medical professional. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your doctor.

For more information, see related articles and helpful catheter and UTI resources here:





Recent Urological


  1. I would like to know how to choose the catheter diameter. I use the 3.3mm and they suggested me to use the 4mm. I see that the catheter drains faster but I feel that it is a little uncomfortable to me…
    So how to choose it….I am very confused!!

    1. Hi Ana. Thanks for reaching out! We posed your question to our spinal cord injury lifestyle specialist, who knows quite a bit about catheters. Here is his response: “Hi Ana. Discussing the catheter diameter with your urologist is a safe place to start. I personally use what is most comfortable, despite function. The larger diameter catheter may perform better, but as the cliche says… “if the shoe doesn’t fit…” don’t wear it! I would suggest asking your medical supply company for samples in different sizes to test out which diameter feels and works the best for you. Good luck! -Aaron”

  2. I have a friend who stays in his home because he had bladder failure and has to self Cather himself every 4 to 5 hours. He’s a 61 year old very active person who now lost his will to live because he’s afraid he won’t be able to Cather himself outside his home. Are there people who can support him that were able to live a somewhat normal life?

    1. Hi Jack. My name’s Aaron – I’m Shield HealthCare’s Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist. Because of my injury, I have extensive experience with catheters, which you can read about in my article, Managing My Neurogenic Bladder. I’m glad you have reached out to Shield with your concern for your friend. Your friend has a very valid fear. I, too, spent many days afraid to go out because of my bowel and bladder difficulties. Incontinence can seem humiliating, to say the least. I did, however, overcome my fear by learning to listen to my body and the few subtle cues it gives me regarding bathroom needs. I think and plan my day ahead, equip myself with the necessary urology supplies (a few extras for good measure) and try to stay on a consistent bowel and urination schedule. I find that my body likes consistency and the more I can control my schedule, the more in-control I feel… And more confident with my day to day activities. He may also find this article I wrote helpful: How to Safely Catheterize in a Public Restroom. Please tell your friend I am available to chat about all of this at anytime, just give him this email address: askaaron@shieldhealthcare.com -Aaron, Shield HealthCare

    1. Hi Colin,

      Thank you for reaching out with your question. We always recommend seeing a medical professional if you are experiencing any issues with your intermittent catheter. To help in the meantime though, I must clarify that while I am not a doctor, I do, however, have 19 years of personal experience with spinal cord injury and the secondary complications that accompany the condition. I too, used to experience soreness due to catheter insertion and removal. I attributed this to the fact that I was inserting the catheter hose into very delicate tissue that under normal circumstances would otherwise not be exposed a foreign object and may therefore be causing micro tears and inflammation.

      As my sensation improved over the years, so to did the pain and soreness. To allow my bladder and genitals a reprieve from cathing, I would use a condom catheter and refrain from intermittent catheterization for a short time to allow healing. If a condom cath isn’t an option for you, then maybe try a smaller size catheter, extra lubrication and a gentle hand during insertion. Be sure your catheters are sterile (I use the JAW), as a bladder infection can cause soreness as well.

      I hope you find a solution to your soreness. Feel free to comment again and share your unique way of managing your body.

      Best in health,

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