If your child is old enough to use a clean intermittent catheter by themselves, review this handout with them. Practice learning how to use the catheter together until your child feels confident to use it on their own.

Which supplies do I need to help my child use their catheter?

It is best to have all your supplies organized and ready when you or your child need them. When your child needs more supplies, please reach out to the care team. Your child’s care team will order supplies from a company that will deliver them to your home.

  • Catheters. The care team will give you a prescription for the appropriate catheter size for your child.
  • Disposable wipes or a washcloth to clean your child’s genitalia (genitals, or private parts) before CIC.
  • Lubricant. This helps the catheter smoothly enter the urethra. Use only a water-soluble lubricant. (If your child uses hydrophilic catheters, lubricant is included. You will not need additional lubricant)
  • Container. If your child is not draining urine into the toilet or if their care team is tracking how much urine your child drains, they may need a container to catch and/or store the urine. (Some catheters come with a bag attached. If the bag may be helpful or you want to learn more about it, ask your supply company or your child’s care team.)
  • Mirror. A mirror can be helpful while you and/or your child learn how to find the urethra. Over time and with practice, you and/or your child will be able to find the urethra by touch.

How to use your child’s catheter

How to use your child’s catheter depends on their anatomy (body parts). If your child has different anatomy than what is shown, please ask the care team if you have questions or need help.

CIC for female anatomy

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. Then, dry them. (You also can use a waterless cleaner, such as hand sanitizer.)
  2. Have your supplies within easy reach.
  3. If your child is using the catheter by themselves, have them sit or stand with the toilet (or collection container) between their legs. If you’re helping your child, position them on their back, the toilet or their wheelchair.
  4. Clean your child’s genitalia with a washcloth or disposable wipe.
  5. Separate the labia (flaps of skin that surround the vagina). Wipe thoroughly from front to back.
  6. Place a generous amount of the water-soluble lubricant on the end of the catheter to be inserted into the urethra. (Skip this step if your child is using a hydrophilic catheter.)
  7. Place the other end of the catheter into a container or let it drain into the toilet. (Skip this step if your child is using a catheter attached to a bag.)
  8. Find the urethra. It is very small, and it may take a couple tries to find it. This is okay. Gently insert the lubricated end of the catheter into the urethra about 2-3 inches (5-7 centimeters, or cm). It may become slightly more difficult to insert just prior to entering the bladder. That is because a muscle called the sphincter sits at the opening of the bladder. It is naturally tightly contracted (closed or flexed). The sphincter will relax as you continue to gently insert the catheter until you reach the bladder and see urine flow.
  9. Once the catheter is in the bladder, hold it there until the urine flow stops.
  10. Move the catheter slightly or insert it a little more to see if the flow continues. To make sure the bladder is fully emptied, gently press on your child’s lower abdomen (belly area) with your hand or ask your child to lean forward.
  11. Slowly remove the catheter by pulling gently in a downward movement. This prevents urine from flowing back into the body. Before removing the final portion of the catheter, hold your finger at the tip or pinch the catheter end.
  12. Wash your hands.
  13. Clean and store your catheter as directed. If your child is using a one-time use catheter, dispose of it properly.

Rev. 8/2022. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treat any medical conditions.