102 chapter 5: Taking care of your body
Using a standard catheter
A catheter is a flexible rubber tube used for draining urine out of the bladder. Many
women who need to use one put a clean or sterile catheter into the bladder every 4
to 6 hours to empty it. The more liquid a woman drinks during the day, the more
often she needs to use the catheter.
Some women do not drink much water because they do not want to use the
catheter very often. But this can cause other problems. If you do not drink enough
liquid, you can get an infection in your bladder or kidneys, or have difficulty
passing stool (constipation).
It is important not to let your bladder get too full. This can cause dysreflexia
(see page 117), and can also cause the urine to go back up into the kidneys and
Many women learn to use a catheter while they are sitting on a toilet or pot.
Women can also use a catheter in a wheelchair, emptying the urine into a toilet or
a bottle. Experiment with what works for you. It takes practice to learn how to use a
catheter when you are sitting, but many women find using a catheter makes it easier
for them to do their daily activities. For most women, the best catheter size to use is
a 16. A very small woman may find a size 14 fits better.
A person using a catheter is more likely to get a urinary infection than someone
who does not. This usually happens because the catheter is not clean enough
and germs get into the bladder. Cleaning your catheter carefully is the best way to
prevent a urinary infection. Always wash your hands with mild soap and clean or
boiled water before you touch the catheter, and wash it before and after using it.
Keep the catheter in a clean place when you are not using it.
A ‘Foley’ (indwelling) catheter has a
small balloon near the tip. The catheter
is made this way so it will stay inside
the bladder for long periods of time.
The balloon is filled with water when
it is inside the bladder, so it will not
slip out. 5cc of water is usually enough
to hold the Foley catheter inside. If it
comes out, increase the amount of
water to 12cc or 15cc.
Water is injected into the balloon here.
Urine drains out here.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007