Clean intermittent self-catheterization (CISC) for women

Your doctor may recommend using intermittent catheters to empty your bladder. These catheters are designed to be inserted at various times in the day. (Other kinds of catheters, such as indwelling, also known as Foley, remain in the bladder all the time.) According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you’ll need to self-catheterize “at least every six hours and at bedtime.” Please consult your doctor on how often you should catheterize.

With the intermittent catheter, your doctor or health care professional will give you instructions on how to insert the catheter on your own, at home. You may also receive materials from the catheter’s manufacturer detailing how to use that particular brand and model.

For women, the steps below are a general description of a common catheterization technique, called Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization (CISC).

Note: CISC is often used to manage emptying the bladder for those with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, enlarged prostate and other conditions that affect normal bladder function.


Step #1

Get all of your supplies ready, including a straight catheter, soap and water, a clean washcloth, water-soluble lubricant (but not petroleum-based products) and a plastic bag to dispose of the used catheters. If your doctor has asked you to measure your urine output, make sure you have a container for the urine.


Step #2

Remove any clothing needed to see the perineal area.


Step #3

Wash your hands well with soap and water, an alcohol-based hand rub or towelette, to limit the risk of infection.


Step #4

Lubricate the end of the catheter for easier insertion. Keep in mind that some catheters come pre-lubricated.


Step #5

Use one hand to draw the labia apart; the other hand will insert the catheter. With the soap and water, wash the area front to back (again, this helps reduce the risk of infection).


Step #6

With the labia apart, find the meatus, or urethral opening. Slowly insert the catheter 2” – 3” into the meatus (make sure not to push too hard  – take breaks if you need to). Once the tube is inserted, you should see urine flowing into the tube. Carefully, insert the tube 1” more.


Step #7

Place the end of the catheter tube in either the toilet or a container, if you need to measure your output.


Step #8

Allow the urine to empty from the bladder through the catheter tube. Once the urine flow has ended, slowly remove the catheter and discard.

 A note about different catheter types

Talk to your doctor or read the manufacturer’s instructions for different insertion techniques when using the following catheters.

Hydrophilic Catheters have a special coating that becomes extremely slippery when wet. The catheter is “activated” when placed in sterile water. Hydrophilic catheters do not need to be lubricated with jelly before insertion.

Closed-System Catheters include a self-contained bag that collects the urine while protecting the catheter from infection-causing bacteria. Some have a special insertion tip that allows the catheter to bypass the first few millimeters of the urethra, where most bacteria is located.


Related articles:
Common questions and answers about urinary catheters
Three reasons you should avoid reusing catheters
Catheters and health care coverage