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Different Types of Catheters for Women

Different Types of Catheters for Women

Urinary catheters for women are commonly prescribed to sustain or introduce a way in which their bladder can drain effectively. While the basic idea of a catheter is uniform across the board – a flexible, hollow tube that drains urine from the bladder to a collection device or bag – there are a number of different types of catheters to support various medical needs and different anatomies. Additionally, the right catheters for women can vary greatly from the right catheters for men.

Below, we’ll take a look at common reasons why catheters for women are prescribed, what types of catheter styles and sizes are available, and what the benefits are of each type of female catheter.

Why Are Catheters for Women Prescribed?

While catheters for women are prescribed frequently both inside and outside of hospital settings, the medical reasons supporting why they are deemed medically necessary can vary greatly. Take a look below at some of the common medical diagnoses that require catheterization in women:

  • Labor
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Surgery
  • Bladder nerve injury
  • Kidney stones
  • Blood clots in urine
  • Prostate gland enlargement 
  • Certain cancers, including prostate cancer
  • Urethral blockages
  • Spina bifida
  • Dementia or other forms of cognitive decline
  • Paralysis
  • Hip fractures
  • Certain medications
  • Loss of bladder muscle control
This image shows a gloved hand holding a catheter for women

Different Types of Catheters for Women

There are three main types of catheters for women that are most commonly prescribed by physicians and that are preferred by female patients. The use of these female urinary catheter options varies and depends on differing medical situations and comfort preferences.

Hydrophilic Self-Lubricating Female Catheters: Hydrophilic catheters are similar in style to straight intermittent catheters, however, they also have a special hydrophilic coating that lubricates the catheter when activated with water. There are also hydrophilic catheter options that come pre-hydrated. One of the main benefits for women using hydrophilic catheters is the reduction in hand touches. Hydrophilic catheters either require no hand lubrication or have a no-touch sleeve; these factors reduce contamination with harmful bacteria.

Closed System Catheters for Women: Closed system catheters for women are often preferred for their general overall convenience. With closed system urinary catheters, women can easily change catheters on-the-go due to the catheters coming pre-lubricated and connected to a sterile bag for collection. There is no need with this catheter style to find a toilet or other place to drain your bladder as everything is directed into the included self-contained collection bag; simply find a private and convenient place to quickly and easily change your catheter.

Intermittent Catheters for Women: Intermittent straight catheters are one of the original and most commonly prescribed and used catheters for women. This catheter style is not pre-lubricated but can be quickly prepared for cathing by using lubricating jelly packets.

When you’re new to using urinary catheters, it can be difficult to understand which style of catheters for women is right for you. Fortunately, your doctor or healthcare provider should be able to help. When a urinary catheter has been prescribe to you, your physician or medical provider can help determine which catheter style will work best for your medical condition and your lifestyle. There are a lot of options and sizes, but the varying product styles allow for catheters to be placed comfortably and easily for most people.

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Different Tips for Female Catheters

Choosing the right insertion tip is important for women and girls when using urinary catheters; this is because anatomies differ and not everyone has the same urethral openings. There are two main catheter tips used with female catheters:

Coudé Tip: Coudé tips are bent or curved on the end. This type of catheter tip works well for women who have certain medical conditions, such as certain cancers, or a urethral blockage. This type of catheter tip is used in women, but most often used for men.

Straight Tip: Straight tips allow for comfortable insertion for most female patients and have no curve or bend at the end. This typed of catheter tip is most often used in women.

French size chart for catheters for men

Sizes Available for Catheters for Women

Having the right catheter tube size in place is essential when using catheters for women. It’s important that the correct tube size is chosen because incorrect sizing can either cause drainage flow to be too slow for the user or discomfort or cause pain. To determine the correct tube size, a universal French size measurement system is in place to be used by healthcare professionals. This universal sizing system (pictured above) is color coded and followed by physicians, nurses, and urologists who generally have the responsibility of determining the tube size that will work best for a woman patient.

Using Female Catheters

Your physician or healthcare professional will help train you on using female catheters and determine the best and easiest way for you to place them yourself. They can also help determine the right tube size and the appropriate catheter tip for you. Catheter usage and placement is not generally a “one size fits all” process for women or men; involvement and training by a professional, especially at the beginning of use, is imperative. 

When using female catheters, it’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of infection or potential issues; these can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cloudy, foul-smelling, and/or discolored urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower back pain
  • Burning in the genital or urethral area
  • Catheter or site leakage
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, or are experiencing pain around the site of your catheter, bladder, or urethra, please contact your physician or healthcare provider right away to prevent further complications. Some of these complications are serious and can include:


  • Bladder stones
  • Infection leading to certain cancers
  • Urethral injury
  • Kidney damage
  • Septicemia
  • Urethral injury
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Blood infections

Are Catheters for Women Covered by Insurance?

When prescribed by a medical professional and deemed medically necessary, catheters for women are covered by most healthcare insurances nationwide. Active Life Medical’s team of customer service experts are standing by to answer any of your female catheter questions and can help determine if your insurance can cover some or all of the cost. Give us a call at 800-319-2336 today.

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