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What Is a Female Catheter?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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A female catheter is a small tube that is inserted into the urethral meatus, the external opening to the urethra, in order to drain urine for collection. It commonly is used on patients who are sedated for surgery or to treat or diagnose bladder conditions by injecting fluid into the bladder. Insertion of the catheter can be complicated by obesity, childbirth or other factors that vary the layout of the vagina. The procedure is painful to some, so a local anesthetic can be used. When possible, a thin catheter should be used to reduce the risk of harming the patient during insertion.

A female catheter can differ greatly from a male catheter. For example, the Texas catheter resembles a condom and fits over the penis in a similar fashion. The tip has a plastic tube that is connected to a longer tube leading to the drainage bag. Males also can be catheterized using the small, plastic tube that is used to catheterize females. The tube is inserted into the urinary tract through the penis.

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Catheters that are left in place for a while are attached to one of two types of drainage bags. The largest of the two is hung under the patient's bed and can be used overnight. Placing the bag on the floor risks overspill when it begins to fill, which isn't healthy for the patient. The second type, commonly called a leg bag, can be attached to the leg and is meant to be discreet. A leg bag can be ideal for everyday use, because it usually is not noticeable under the wearer's pants or dress, and it can be emptied into a toilet.

Long-term use of a female catheter carries the risk of urinary tract infection, which is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. Common symptoms and signs are an urge to urinate frequently, burning during urination and cloudy or foul-smelling urine. Using the female catheter only when necessary might reduce the risk of infection. Other ways to combat urinary tract infections while using a catheter include regularly cleaning the genital area and catheter, drinking plenty of water and disconnecting the drainage bag as infrequently as possible.

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Discuss this Article

anon294552
Post 8

I was thinking about a catheter because, due to a bad surgery, my bowel is wrapped around my bladder causing severe pain and making me need to keep urinating. But after reading about it, I will just stay home close to a toilet!

TheGraham
Post 7

@aishia - Your IV drip comment made me double check the article, because I remembered a comment in there about injecting fluids into the bladder using a female catheter, not just draining urine. Sure enough, it seems sometimes a female catheter is just like an IV drip that leads to the bladder instead of the bloodstream.

I wonder if catheters are ever used to inject any fluids besides the testing fluid? Would it help the bladder any to rinse it out this way, or are there medications that can be absorbed by the inner walls of the bladder that will help a condition faster than any other way?

Medicine often does stranger things than this, so I wouldn't be surprised if all of the above were true.

For anybody going in to have a female catheter inserted who are worried about the procedure being scary, do a YouTube search on female catheter videos. There are several really well-done videos that explain the procedure in-depth, show it being performed (on medical dummies as well as real people -- click thumbnails at your own risk) and explain all of the instruments used.

I was comforted to see that the catheter is lubricated before insertion; the catheters in the video I watched slid in much easier than I imagined they would.

gimbell
Post 6

Okay, I get the idea behind a female external catheter and how it could be useful, but when the article here started talking about leg bags it made me realize that people wear these things while up and out and about. Wouldn't it be really uncomfortable to walk around with a catheter tube inserted between your legs?

Not to be rude or put down the practice or anything -- if it's necessary, and it does its job, then it's a good invention. I just have to wonder if the discomfort ends after you're done inserting the catheter, or continues the whole time it's in for the people who walk around all day with a leg bag.

Does anybody here have any experience wearing a female external catheter during daily activities and want to answer my question about discomfort? I'm really curious now.

aishia
Post 5

@Malka - A female catheter makes more sense than a bedpan in one of the situations mentioned in the article -- women who are sedated for surgery. With a catheter, the patient doesn't have to be moved at all, and unlike a bedpan you can more easily tell when it's time to empty the bag where urine is collected.

Think of it like an IV drip, only backward. It's uncomfortable, but inserting catheters for men or women isn't torture, nor is it the end of the world. And even if it does seem terribly uncomfortable, there's always the reassurance that the insertion won't take more than a few seconds.

Malka
Post 4

Are female catheters used when you control bladder function or something? I can see how one would be useful if you have a bladder condition and still want to walk around in daily life without having to worry about things.

If we're talking about women who are confined the bed rest, though, I have to wonder why a bedpan type of solution wouldn't be preferable to something that can cause urinary tract infections, not to mention serious discomfort.

myharley
Post 3

The only good thing I can say about a female catheter insertion is that it doesn't take very long to do. If you know it is only going to be a few seconds, it makes it a little easier to endure.

If you have to have a catheter on a long term basis, there are many good online companies where you can order your supplies. Many times being able to do this online makes it somewhat easier since it can be a sensitive issue to talk about.

SarahSon
Post 2

No matter what type of catheter is being used or for whatever reason, having one inserted is never a pleasant situation. I have gone through this more than once, and wish I had some kind of local anesthetic both times.

I am glad that I have never had to have an indwelling catheter for a long period of time. It is easy to see how you can get infections from this.

I understand the different reasons people have to have catheters, and know they are used for a good purpose, but wish there was some other way to get it done.

anon91186
Post 1

My daughter has very specific needs including a daily female catheter. We use an online company for all her supplies. The people there are very professional and knowledgeable. They helped me to get exactly what I needed for my daughter.

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