If your doctor has recommended intermittent catheterization as part of your treatment plan (whether due to bladder retention, urinary incontinence, multiple sclerosis, a spinal cord injury, or another medical condition that affects the way your bladder works), you may be feeling overwhelmed by the news and wondering where to start.
We completely understand, and we want to assure you that those feelings are perfectly normal. However, once armed with the right information and the right supplies for you, using female catheters can eventually become second nature to you.
But first, you may want to learn more about the three main types of female intermittent catheters, so here's our simple guide!
Types of Female Intermittent Catheters
Intermittent catheters are small tubes designed to drain urine from the bladder. These are most often composed of vinyl or PVC, silicone, or red rubber latex, and they are considered single-use only devices, since they are inserted into the body via the urethra. Catheters have come a long way since they were first invented
, and innovations in technology continue to roll out with new products that may offer a smoother catheterization experience as well as better discretion and ease of use.
Because the female urethra is only a few inches in length compared to the male urethra, female catheters are typically only 6 to 8 inches long, although there are shorter pocket-sized options. Some women prefer to use male length catheters, and this is based on preference and what works best for you.
Concerned about the catheter tube's diameter? That's a common fear, but there's no need to worry. Your prescribing physician will be able to test French sizes
with you and properly determine with you what will work best for your individual anatomy and needs.
The right size will help with overall comfort as well as efficiency in drainage. For example, if you use a smaller female catheter French size than what fits your body best, you may notice urine seeping around the sides of the catheter (rather than only draining into the tube and down to your chosen receptacle, like a collection bag or toilet), which can literally leave a mess on your hands. If you use a larger catheter French size than necessary, you may have some difficulty with insertion, or you could experience some discomfort. Making sure to get the right size prescribed before ordering will be a big component in finding the right catheter for you!
After you and your doctor have discussed size options, you'll want to start thinking about the three main intermittent catheter types available for women.
The three main types of intermittent catheters are:
Considered the original technology, female length straight intermittent catheters
are uncoated and must be manually lubricated prior to insertion. Usually, this is done with individual packets of sterile lubricant, although some prefer using the flip-top tubes of lubricant. These can easily be included with your catheter order, and we can take into account what may be easiest for you to use, including factors like limited hand dexterity.
These are available in just about every material, and there are options both with and without color-coded funnels. This typically comes down to personal preference, but you will need to let your supplier know of any potential allergies, such as latex, as well as any chemicals you may want to avoid like DEHP
. Sometimes also known as "in and out" catheters, intermittent catheter tubes are uncoated, so they must be manually lubricated before insertion, typically by individual-use packets of sterile lubrication which can be included in your orders.
Straight female catheters are typically fairly easy to conceal in one's pocket, makeup bag, or purse, and one benefit is that these may feel a little lighter than catheters that include additional insertion supplies or water packets, making them simple to carry or pack in one's luggage for traveling
are similar to straight catheters in many ways, but there's one key feature that makes hydrophilic catheters stand apart from other types. Female hydrophilic catheters have a coating that is activated by water to become slippery, smooth, and ready to use. This coating acts in place of lubricant, so you don't have to worry about carrying along a tube or packets of lubricant with you.
Depending on the brand, some hydrophilic catheters come with their own sterile water packet to burst inside the packaging and let the catheter soak anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute, and then it's ready to use. Others, like the SpeediCath Compact
, is pre-packaged in its own sterile saline solution, so as soon as you open up this discreet package (designed to look similar to a makeup item like a tube of mascara or lipstick), your catheter is ready to use and then dispose of easily without muss or fuss once you've drained your bladder.
Most hydrophilic catheter manufacturers feature a handy guiding sleeve to allow you to manipulate the catheter for insertion without touching the tube itself and risking potential contamination from any possible germs left on your hands, even after washing up before use.
Closed System Catheters
Female closed system catheters
are a convenient option since it's basically an all-in-one system. The catheter itself is pre-lubricated and sterile inside its self-contained collection bag, which eliminates the need to carry additional lubricant, and many brands also have insertion supplies packaged with it as well, such as sterile gloves, an underpad, and antiseptic wipes. Most closed systems also have a pre-lubricated introducer tip that helps to bypass the majority of bacteria in the first few millimeters of the urethra, which further minimizes the risk of infection.
Some people in wheelchairs prefer closed system catheters, since they can sometimes eliminate the need to transfer from your chair to a toilet. Thanks to the self-contained collection bag, you can self-cath anyplace where you have privacy.
There are options such as gripping aids for those with limited hand dexterity
, as well as different materials of catheters, different collection bag sizes, and more. Our Catheter Product Specialists can discuss the different features that may appeal to you or work best for your needs.
Since we specialize in catheters as well as ostomy supplies
, we carry all the major catheter brands and types, so you have the option to sample what might work best for you, and you have the freedom of choice to pick the brand you prefer.
Ultimately, the decision about which type of catheter you should use will come down to your prescribing healthcare professional's assessment of your condition and personal needs.
When you're ready to order, 180 Medical is here to serve you and your doctor in helping to select an intermittent catheter that will be easy for you to use while giving you a hygienic, comfortable, and convenient catheterization.
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About the Author:
We are catheter specialists that have been in the business for over fifteen years, and we've helped thousands of women, men, and children find the right catheter supplies
. Our goal is to help turn your quality of life around with high-quality catheter products that can restore your confidence and sense of independence. Our catheter specialists will also offer you unparalleled service and a compassionate, listening ear.
We also offer educational materials like full-color brochures and DVDs offering step-by-step instructions of how to self-cath
Give us a call at 1-877-688-2729. We'd love the opportunity to discuss your female catheter options with you!
Jessica has worked for 180 Medical
for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares for its employees and customers.