Trudy Triumph's Neurogenic Bladder Blog

Woman’s Intermittent Catheter, you can do it!


Dear Trudy,

I would like to be part of a support group of neurogenic bladder. I am very concerned about it as far as the urologist advised me to self-catheter twice a day. I am in shock. My husband is helping me right now but I have to get used of it. Also I am afraid that doing two catheters a day I will not able to do by myself. My bladder is working but obviously it is not doing it well. I have a lot of retention. I am very, very sad, and to read your blog made me think that not everything is lost. Forgive my English, I am Spanish speaking, and I live in Israel. Thank you if you can get in touch with me, thank you very, very much!

A Reader


Dear One,

Thank you for your email.  You are exactly who I write the blog for.  I agree, the diagnosis is devastating. I felt so compelled to start this blog because I felt as you do. You are very fortunate to have found out.  I suffered for years before I discovered that my bladder was the size of a large melon.

As far as support groups, I am on one, on Facebook.  It is called Neurogenic Bladder and Bowel.  I have tried others and they have not worked for me as this one has.  It is a closed group, so ask to join.

This group has helped keep me sane. Not long ago I woke up and felt complete fear.  I had a busy day, I was constipated (often if you have an underactive bladder you have a underactive bowel as well.) I had bladder pain and I was off to a substitute job at a nearby school.  I was not sure how I was going to pull the day off.  I sent a post out to this Facebook group and really let it rip..whaaa, whaaa, whaaa, you know what I mean? I was willing, but my body was weak.  It just felt good that there was a group of folks out there who understood how I felt.  I received the sweetest comments and wonderful encouragement. I agree, support groups are important.

You did not mention your physical limitations in the email.  Are you physically able to cath yourself?  It is easy to learn.  You will become more independent.  Also, it might be better for you to cath more than twice a day. Talk to your doctor about this.  If you are able, I promise you will get used to using a catheter.  I use a small compact cath and use it about 4-5 times a day. I sit on the toilet, as I use a catheter.

I do not use a mirror because there is no need to.I find this funny because I am sure a male urologist suggested that women use a mirror. Men can see their parts. Perhaps whoever suggested that we use a mirror (a male I would bet money on) could not imagine that seeing is not important to us.  We women were born with a three dimensional road map and have never seen our private parts. We need to feel. We do just fine without a mirror.

Bladder infections, are the hardest part of an underactive bladder, for me. They happen at inconvenient times. Using a catheter is not perfect and it leaves us susceptible to them.  This is something that we live with, but the good thing is, we live.  Perhaps we have broken bodies. All do really. What is not broken is our soul. We have a lot of living to do!

You are not alone.  There are many of us that lead happy, productive, good, lives.  Many children learn to use catheters too.  Now you are part of our club. Welcome.

An Excerpt from my book,

Beyond Embarrassment,

by JoAnne Lake (this is my real name) with Julia Parker

So, here is how to insert a catheter without looking. The key is to understand the anatomy in the female genital area (vulva). The clitoris kind of stands out on its own. The vagina is the large opening behind the clitoris. The urethral opening is between the clitoris and the vaginal opening. I start by washing my hands with soap. The catheter I use is self-lubricated, so that takes out a big step. If I accidentally touch the tip of my catheter with my hand or another object, I throw it away, to prevent infection. I do not clean my labia at the time of insertion, since I shower once a day. My urologist told me it is not necessary, anyway. There is another school of thought, and that is that cleaning your labia with an antibiotic solution before using a catheter is best. My thoughts on this vary. I know there are bacteria in the labia, but the stinging that can happen if I had to put a solution on my labia six times a day makes me “ouch” just thinking about it. For advice about this, ask your doctor.

 After washing your hands, gently press the catheter in the area between the clitoris and the vaginal opening, and soon you will find the spot. There is definitely an opening, which will become apparent as you probe gently. It will happen, I promise. After I use my catheter, I throw it away because reusing catheters can cause bladder infections. If at all possible, I suggest you use a single-use catheter.

Shed the shame and stand proud!

29 Responses to “Woman’s Intermittent Catheter, you can do it!”

  1. Reply Kerrie Sanchez

    I have just had my 1 year anniversary of self cathing. I didn’t think I would ever be able to do it. Low and behold it is second nature to me. Time will give you the confidence with cathing. The last year has had some really hard times, but I have overcome all that was handed to me. My bladder just stopped working so I only self cath to empty my bladder. Good luck and remember this will become second nature to you!

  2. Reply Joan Delgado

    Dear One, I surely emphasize with you! I am the wife of a 92 year old bladder cancer survivor of 11 years. His bladder had been distended due to BPH, and only then was his bladder cancer discovered. That was a mixed blessing – he has been in remission for 10 years, but he has to cath 3 times a day due to retention of urine, usually up to 1600 ml.
    I tell you this to put it in to perspective.
    Some days he tells me – I am only going to cath once today – this evening. Then a day or so later, he seems to feel irritation and a stinging feeling when urinating – early signs of an infection? – it seems like a double edged sword.
    He knows he will need to continue to cath, and says he cannot imagine having to ask for my help to cath in the future.

    So, Thanks for your blog Trudy, and we are praying for your cathing skills to improve rapidly with Trudy’s advice!
    from Queensalmon.

  3. Reply Ana Camusso

    Dear Trudy,
    I was not aware you answer my letter. It is so strange, because when I read my own letter i did not recognize it until the end. I read it in shock, really. Time has passed and one week ago I began to introduce the cath by myself, but still my husband is giving it to me. I can not use the small one because up to the urologist, my anatomy is not proper to it, so i am using the coloplast standard catheter for men, but they are using by women too. It is not a very complicate, but of course is not as easy as the small one. I do it with the mirror which caused me many problems, and all the time i do mistakes and i have to try all over again, causing me a lot of fear because always there is that feeling that maybe i can not do it!. But , this is it. Now I am so happy you tell about our mind as women, and the possibility to touch and recognize our body. I will practice from today…I will try…
    regarding facebook support group of course i will visit and ask for permission. I am really so happy now that I get your answer. I am a very corageous person but this time i felt many times that i could not deal with the situation, but it is so wanderful you say about life, and i do want to live…
    thank you very much again, i will visit your blog every day..
    receive my blessing,

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      I am glad you are doing well and learning to use a catheter by yourself. We all had to learn and move on. Thank you for letting us know how you are doing. We are cheering you on! Trudy

  4. Reply Ana Camusso

    Dear Trudy.
    each day, a new challange: what a life!, but it is okey…
    I am doing with a mirror, but as you say, it would be so good not to have that mirror!, it makes me sometimes be ungry because it disturbing my way to go with the catheter to the meathos. So, I will try without looking at. I read what you wrote, it seems….easy!. I will try tomorrow…lot of blessings!

  5. Reply Ana Camusso

    I am so happy i can do it by myself, still i have to look for a good posicion, and also do it with no looking at the mirror, this is my new challange. The important thing is that my bladder be release, and to it, i do not troublesome about how much i cath myself, it seems that due to my case i should cath from 4 to six times a day….
    but nothing, nothing made me feel that things will go bad. I have a strong example of others sisters and brothers who everyday are trying and be as an examples to others….

  6. Reply Kerrie

    You are not alone in the self cath world. You will get comfortable with it eventually. It took me almost a year. I can only cath as my bladder does not empty at all. Keep your chin up ? . Let’s hope that modern medicine will come up with a better option!

    • Reply Abbey

      I’m having trouble w. Self cath. I have MS. I can still go on my own. I have a really oab. I’m wondering does it really help to do this when you are going out, how long does self cath last. I really need a support group
      So maybe you can answer these few questions. Thankyou 😊

      • Reply Trudy Triumph

        Hi Abbey thank you for your comment. I self cath about 4-5 Times a day. Since I do not have the normal full bladder feeling I schedule myself. Usually it is when I wake up in the morning, mid morning, about 3ish, dinner time and before I go to bed. Everyone is different. I have complete freedom because I carry my catheters with me, with practice it comes second nature. You should discuss this with your doctor. People have found relief with an over active bladder with Botox you might discuss this with your doctor as well. Sometimes just when we figure life out our body changes again. We alone are in charge of our attitude. I am glad at your willingness to try. Keep it up! Not long ago I had a bowel blockage and because of how it left me I felt depressed because I could no longer go out on long hikes with my hiking club. My fun time was changed up. Now I have taken up golf( porta-potty’s close by. I have met a new set of wonderful people. Please do not deprive yourself of what gives you joy.

  7. Reply Michelle

    Hi I have just been told I need to self catherterize and I’m scared

  8. Reply Michelle

    I am to be taught how to self catheterise and I am dreading it. So come across your sight and read others in the same predicament

  9. Reply Sara J

    I had botox for overactive bladder. I am now retaining urine, a side effect I was told only occurred in 1 in 100 patients. I have had a Foley catheter for 5 weeks. They say the botox could take up to 6 mos. to wear off so I am being encouraged (feels more like forced) to learn to self-cath. I tried it on two occasions and failed to find the proper location. I can’t figure out how to hold a mirror and hold my labia open with only my left hand. I am terrified of the whole process so my right hand is very shaky as well. I had a panic attack on the last try. They reluctantly replaced the Foley and I know I will be expected to try again at my next appointment in a week. I want to flat out refuse to self-cath. It scares me and I feel humiliated by the whole thing. If this is supposed to be a short term problem, I don’t see why we need to push (no pun intended) the self-cath if I am so stressed out about it. I am a 62 yr. old woman and I feel like a 2 yr. old. Am I being reasonable to refuse the self-cath if a Foley can be used instead?

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      This comment is so important and my answer is lengthy, I will answer in my next blog post. in the mean time please consider having your Foley catheter removed and continue trying to use intermittent catheters. You can do it. It is really hard for all of us at first. I will try to have the post out soon.

  10. Reply Abbey

    I have MS& recently had Botox put in my bladder. So so sorry I did that. I to have retention. Now I need to know how many times a day, what time of the day should I cath? My nurse told me 1 time a day. I have a numb. left hand , so I have to use a mirror. This is a new thing for me & I hate it

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      I am sorry, at first I hated it first too. You can do this! Soon it will be second nature and you will be grateful that you can live a fruitful life in spite of your new toileting routine.

      I am not a medical professional, just a patient like yourself. Only a doctor, propbably after seeing your urodynamics test, can suggest the number of times a day use an intermittent catheter is needed. I use about 5-6 a day. You only need one hand to use a catheter.

  11. Reply Sara J

    After reading your blog and other comments here, I finally worked up the courage to self-cath. After many misdirected attempts I finally was successful and am now self-cathing every 4 hours. Hopefully this will be short term due to botox gone wrong. I am told bladder function should return before 6 months pass. Now I’m no longer waking in the night panicking about what seemed like an impossible task. I appreciate the support I found here. I never thought I could do it, but I did.

  12. Reply jean e. keller

    I’ve had OAB for 11 years. I’ve tried so many pills, and surgeries, diets. like no sodium and avoid certain fruits. I’ve been through 4 different urologist. And they keep giving up on me. The last urologist i had is an older man. I urinated 5 times from my house to his office.(30 min travel) I told him after I just went and he did a cath for me. I was surprised there was still a good amount of urine from my bladder. He gave me self cath samples and the nurse taught me how to do a self cath. Presto! urinating from 20 times at night to 4 was a miracle. However, my doctor was not happy. and told me on my next visit that he has done everything he can for me. I was stunned. I did not understand why he thought that wasn’t good enough. I continued to self cath but I don’t see him anymore. I’m still looking now for a new urologist.

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      Yes you are right, you will need a good Uroligist because the problem with using an intermittent catheter are bladder infections. You will need help if they arise. There is a good post on my blog explaining how some antibiotics are better than others. I wish you the best in learning about your underactive bladder. There is an organization called #UnderactiveBladderFoundation that is an excellent resource. Remember first of all that knowledge is power and lastly that you have been given a gift because you now know what the problem is. Many don’t. I am happy for your many days of comfort ahead. Please keep in touch.

  13. Reply Jennifer Little

    Hi my name is Jennifer I’m a first time self cath myself. And feeling overwhelmed and emotional i have bladder retention due to my full hysterectomy 4 years ago, i have a great doctor taking good care of me. Having a hard time right now coming up with a schedule to self cath myself. for twice a day in the morning and before bed, Please help i do leak when i cath called my doctor he told me to pee first then cath myself. Thank you Jennifer!!!!

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      Hi Jenifer. Are you saying that you leak during the day between the time you cath in the morning till night? If that is the case, perhaps your bladder is full and you need to cath more frequently. Perhaps the leaking is because your bladder is too full. Talk to your doctor about this. I cath about 6 times from dusk till dawn. I am happy you have a uroligist you like. I think perhaps my neurogenic bladder is because if a hysterectomy as well. Sorry for both of us on that one. Please keep in touch and enjoy the turkey next week.

      • Reply Jennifer Little

        Thank you for getting back to me i will talk to my doctor. How do you stick to a schedule to cath myself? I do morning and night at different times i want to stick to the same schedule so overwhelmed with starting to self cath myself for the first time. Does it get easier?

  14. Reply Trudy Triumph

    Yes it becomes second nature. Remember it is your new normal now. In the beginning I set an alarm on my phone for every four hours or so and cathed when it went off.

  15. Reply Sherry Creager

    I am a first-time self cath. After a few years of trying different things to get my urine to flow, my urologist told me I needed to use a catheter. She put in a catheter to “show me the correct angle”, gave me a bag of various catheters and said to go watch a youtube video. I was in shock! My husband and I tried the various catheters and couldn’t get anything out – I was in tears because I didn’t know what to do. I finally got a coloplast speedi-cath to work and after voiding with it I almost passed out and ended up with a bladder infection. The whole thing was very traumatic for me. I changed urologists and the second said he didn’t think I needed to cath. We tried medication and I tried different positions to relax myself but it ended up lately that I was pushing so hard my neck and lower back became chronically painful. Yes, I got the urine out but my body was taking a toll. I saw the urologist yesterday and until he can do some tests at the end of this month, he wants me to self-cath 3-4 times a day. I find I can only do it in the shower because I am soooo paranoid about infection. I soap everything good before and after the cathing. I’m concerned about doing it out in a public restroom. How do you do it on a toilet without getting dirty??? I’m grateful to hear from your other comments that it will become easier to cath over time. I’m glad I found your site.

  16. Reply Lorraine Martin

    I have just been told by my Urologist that I should use an intermittent catheter due to retention. The nurse demonstrated how to do it and sent me away with a supply of catheters. I am not put off by having to do it as I welcome a good night sleep but I’ve tried it now a few times and failed. I can find the entrance okay but keep getting resistance and the catheter just won’t go in. I am feeling really despondent now but don’t want to give up. I would be grateful to hear where I am going wrong.

    • Reply Trudy Triumph

      When I was learning, the hardest part for me was finding the opening of my urethra. So good job on that part. Are you lubricating your catheter? If not please have your doctor suggest the type to use.

      Now I want you to think about this. Even before you tried to cath yourself you had a stream of urine leaving your body. That is a direct flow from your bladder. You have an opening.

      Remember I am not a medical person, just a patient like you. My advice to you is to relax and keep trying. I promise this procedure will become second nature. Please call your doctor and report back to us and tell us how it is going.

      • Reply Lorraine martin

        Happy to say I am managing to self cath albeit still with a mirror but at least it’s a step in the right direction and I am really comfortable doing it.

Leave a Comment


Your Cart