Have you recently been prescribed urinary catheters? When your healthcare professional determines your need to use this standard medical device, you’ll likely have many questions. For instance, many new catheter users wonder if a female catheter differs from a male catheter.

While men and women use catheters in similar ways and for similar reasons, the types of catheters used can vary. Below, we’ll look at the features that define male and female catheters and what sets them apart.


Why Do Men And Women Use Catheters?

Urinary catheters are one of the most prescribed medical devices in the U.S. Each day, thousands of men, women, and children either self-cath or are catheterized in the hospital or by a caregiver.

But why would a male catheter and a female catheter be used? And what medical conditions do catheters seek to remedy?

In general, catheters are used for men, women, and children to help resolve one or more of the following issues:

  • Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence is a common medical condition resulting in bladder control loss. Several types of bladder incontinence can result in involuntary urination following events such as sneezing, lifting, exercising, or coughing. Urinary incontinence can also occur when there is a sudden urge to urinate, as a constant flow or dribble of urine, or result of certain mental or cognitive conditions.
  • Urinary Retention: When patients are diagnosed with urinary retention, they have a medical condition in which their bladder is not empty all of their urine during urination. 

Various underlying medical conditions can lead to the issues discussed above. These medical conditions can include, but are not limited to:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Bladder nerve damage
  • Blood clots in urine
  • Damaged or weakened bladder muscles
  • Dementia
  • Enlarged prostate glands
  • Hip surgery
  • Hysterectomies
  • Injuries to spinal cords
  • Kidney stones or other blockages
  • Labor
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostate surgery
  • Spina bifida
  • Various surgeries

What Is A Male Catheter?

When men need urinary catheters, various male catheters can assist with proper bladder drainage. The main male catheter options currently available include:

  • External Male Catheters: Male external catheters, also known as condom catheters, are worn over the shaft of a man’s penis just like a condom. Urine flows through the condom catheter and into a tube connected to a drainage or collection bag for disposal.
  • Male Closed System Catheters: Men use closed system catheters for convenience and safety. Closed system catheters for men, also known as touchless catheters, include a hydrophilic pre-lubricated catheter connected to tubing and housed in a collection bag for easy disposal into a receptacle or toilet. 
  • Male Hydrophilic Catheters: This catheter style is unique because it is pre-lubricated for easy urethral insertion. Hydrophilic catheters are either pre-coated with a water-based lubricant or have a water packet that will activate the hydrophilic coating on the catheter to lubricate. 
  • Male Straight Catheters: Male straight catheters are uncoated and require external lubrication before insertion into the urethra. These catheters are straight, soft, and thin tubes that the male patient can use throughout the day to drain their bladder and then be discarded immediately after use. 

What Is A Female Catheter? 

Women use many of the same catheter styles as men, with some differences sometimes in place to accommodate different anatomical and medical needs. 

  • External Female Catheters: These catheters are made of soft and flexible material connected to a plastic collection canister for easy disposal with insertion between a woman’s labia and buttocks. 
  • Female Closed System Catheters: Female closed system catheters are similar to hydrophilic catheters in that they are pre-lubricated. However, they are one step above inconvenience because they are pre-housed in their collection bag and connected to drainage tubing. Women use this type of catheter more frequently due to its increased safety and ease of use. 
  • Female Hydrophilic Catheters: This female catheter type allows for easy use due to its pre-lubrication. Hydrophilic catheters come either pre-coated with a water-based lubricant or have a water packet that will activate the hydrophilic coating on the catheter to lubricate. Women often prefer this style for its ease of use anywhere and its reduction in hand touching, which can reduce the introduction of harmful bacteria.
  • Female Straight Catheters: Female straight catheters are the most common and essential. Also known as in-and-out catheters, this type is uncoated and requires external lubrication before inserting into the female’s urethra. 

How is A Female Catheter Different Than A Male Catheter? 

Men and women use many of the same types of catheters, but some are designed for male or female use. But how is a female catheter different than a male catheter, and are there differences within the same catheter category?

Aside from the differences with external catheters, size is predominately the difference between male and female catheters. Female urethras are much shorter in general than male urethras. A woman’s urethra can often measure around 3-4 cm, whereas a male urethra is 18-20 cm long. These size differences between the two sexes mean that catheters for women are usually between 7-20 cm in length, and male catheter lengths can be between 30-40 cm in length.

What Kind Of Catheter Should I Use? 

Medical professionals or healthcare teams will determine what type of catheter is best for men and women. Catheter patients or their caregivers must be actively involved in discussing what type of catheter they use. Some questions to consider that can help determine the male or female catheter that will work best include the following: 

  • Are you comfortable inserting a catheter into your urethra? If not, or if you believe this may be more painful, external catheters may be the right choice. 
  • Are you going to be self-cathing? It helps to select the style you and your doctor feel will be easiest for you to use independently. 
  • Are you prone to infection? No or reduced-touch catheter systems may be the safer choice to prevent infection.
  • Do you lead a relatively active lifestyle? If you find yourself constantly on the run, all-in-one catheter methods like close system catheters can be easier to use outside the home.

Active Life Medical Products Can Help With Catheter Supplies

You need a trusted catheter product supplier when you require catheter supplies. Active Life Medical Products makes ordering the entire catheter supply process easy. Our Product Specialists can help you get your prescribed catheter covered through most insurances. Everything will be delivered directly and discreetly to your front door.

Call Active Life Medical Products at (800) 319-2336 to place your order.

Find out more about catheters here.