Helpful Hints: Finding the Female Urethral Opening and Avoiding UTIs
At MTG, we interact with a lot of catheter users, and we often hear that women who self-cath have difficulty locating the female urethral opening. Fortunately, with some practice, you can become a pro at self-catheterization and find the urethral opening with ease.
What is the Urethra?
The urethra is the tube that connects the bladder and allows urine to empty out of the body. The female urethra is short, only about 1.5 inches long compared to the male urethra, which is 7 to 8 inches long. Due to the shorter length of the urethra, women are more prone to urinary tract infections.
Finding the Urethral Opening
The female urethral opening is located above your vagina and about 2.5 cm below your clitoris. It is rather small and might be difficult to see or feel, so it is important to get to know your body through self-examination before preparing to self-catheterize.
When locating your urethral opening for self-catheterization, it is important that you do not poke around with the catheter until you find the urethra. Doing so instantly contaminates the catheter, and introduces bacteria into the urethra and puts you at a high risk for developing a urinary tract infection. If you do find yourself poking around to find the urethra, STOP. Dispose of the catheter, and start from the beginning with a new catheter.
Self-Cath Tips for Women
Still unsure about finding the urethral opening? Here are a few helpful self-catheterization tips for women to help find the urethral opening and avoid urinary tract infections.
Use a Mirror
Having a good light source and using a mirror, whether hand held or one that can clip onto the toilet, is essential for female self-catheterization. When first starting out, try several different styles of mirrors to see which one works best for you.
User Tip: Once you find the right mirror, buy two (or more) so can always have one on hand.
Try Different Positions
If you are having trouble finding the urethra, even with the use of a mirror, trying a different position may help. Some women find it easier to self-cath sitting while others self-cath standing with one leg on the toilet, or even laying down. Do what is most comfortable for you and helps you find the urethral opening.
User Tip: Many women have success placing a mirror on the back of the toilet and face backwards on the toilet to self-cath.
Clean the Urethral Opening with BZK Wipes
To help prevent urinary tract infections, good hygiene is essential. The use of BZK wipes, also known as Benzalkonium Chloride wipes, can help sterilize the skin around the urethral opening and prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract. BZK wipes do not dry out to skin, as they are alcohol-free, and they aren’t as messy as PVP (Povidone Iodine) swabs.
How to Use BZK Wipes: When preparing to self-cath, cleanse the area by wiping downward one time with a BZK wipe, and throw away. Repeat the process with another wipe to ensure everything is clean and ready to go. Do not wipe twice with the same BZK wipe. For more information on how to properly use BZK wipes, watch our educational video at the end of this article.
Switch to a Pre-Lubricated Closed System Catheter
If you suffer from chronic or recurrent UTI’s, it might be time to switch to a different style of catheter. Closed system catheters are often prescribed to individuals who have a history of urinary tract infections or who are immunosuppressed. MTG closed system catheters are pre-lubricated intermittent catheters inside its own collection bag. MTG catheters feature an introducer tip, which shields the urethra from bacteria, and allow you to catheterize anywhere.
The MTG EZ-Advancer No-Touch Closed System Catheter (formerly MTG Cath-Lean®) was designed specifically for women and is available in 12 or 14 FR sizes. Our compact Mini-Pak packaging easily fits in your pocket or purse for discreet catheterization anywhere. Full kit versions contain sterile MTG EZ-Advancer® closed system catheter, pair of latex-free gloves, underpad, gauze pad, two Benzalkonium chloride (BZK) clear, odor-free, alcohol-free cleansing wipes, and a privacy bag for discreet disposal.