How to insert a catheter (female patient)

Updated February 21, 2017

Physicians use a catheter, a tube inserted into the body to drain the bladder of urine, to aid patients with urinary incontinence and during a number of different surgical procedures. Explain the process to your patient to ease her nerves and to make the procedure go more smoothly for both parties. Follow these steps to insert a catheter into a female.

Wash your hands thoroughly, and apply sterile gloves. Clean the urethral opening with a cleansing, sterilizing product such as betadine. Clean the labia and urethral meatus using downward strokes, avoiding the anal area. Use betadine or similar sterilizing product.

Scrub your hands thoroughly again and apply sterile gloves. Do not touch the outside of the gloves with your hands. Lubricate the catheter.

Spread the labia and locate the meatus. Insert the catheter into the meatus carefully and slowly. Advance the catheter gently. After urine begins to flow, advance the catheter another 2 inches.

Hold the catheter in place while you inflate the balloon using a syringe with clean, sterile water. Ensure that the catheter is in the bladder.

Pull the catheter gently until the inflation balloon sits snugly against the bladder's neck. Attach the drainage bag and secure it to the patient's thigh or abdomen.


It's important to avoid contamination. A urinary catheter can cause serious infection if you don't sterilize it.


If the patient feels pain while inflating the balloon, stop. Deflate the balloon, advance the catheter and attempt to inflate the balloon again.

Things You'll Need

  • Sterile gloves
  • Betadine
  • Catheter
  • Lubrication
  • Syringe
  • Drainage bag
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