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How is a Female Catheter Different Than a Male Catheter?

How is a Female Catheter Different Than a Male Catheter?

Learn how male catheters and female catheters differ and why they are used.

Have you recently been prescribed urinary catheters? When your healthcare professional determines you need to use this common medical device, you’ll most likely have a lot of questions. For instance, many new catheter users wonder if a female catheter is different than a male catheter. 

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

Why Do Men and Women Use Catheters?

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

But, why would a male catheter and 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 Retention: When patients are diagnosed with urinary retention, it means that they have a medical condition in which their bladder is not emptying all of their urine during urination. 
  • Urinary Incontinence: Urinary incontinence is a common medical condition that results in loss of bladder control. There are several different types of bladder incontinence, which 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, or occur as a constant flow or dribble of urine, or result from certain mental or cognitive conditions.
There are various underlying medical conditions that can lead to the issues discussed above. These medical conditions can include, but are not limited to:
  • Spina bifida
  • Prostate surgery
  • Kidney stones or other blockages
  • Blood clots in urine
  • Enlarged prostate glands
  • Injuries to spinal cords
  • Bladder nerve damage
  • Labor
  • Pregnancy
  • Hysterectomies
  • Various surgeries
  • Hip surgery
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Damaged or weakened bladder muscles
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What Is a Male Catheter?

When men are in need of urinary catheters, there are various male catheters that can be used to 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 that is connected to a drainage or collection bag for disposal.
  • Male Hydrophilic Catheters: This form of catheter style is unique in that it is pre-lubricated for easy urethral insertion. Hydrophilic catheters come either pre-coated with a water-based lubricant, or has an included water packet that will activate the hydrophilic coating on the catheter to lubricate. 
  • Male Closed System Catheters: Closed system catheters are becoming increasingly used by men for their relative convenience and safety. Closed system catheters for men, also known as touchless catheters, include a hydrophilic pre-lubricated catheter that is connected to tubing and housed in a collection bag for easy disposal into a receptacle or toilet. 
  • Male Straight Catheters: Male straight catheters are uncoated and require external lubrication prior to insertion into the urethra. These catheters are straight, soft, and thin tubes that can be used by the male patient throughout the day to drain their bladder and then discarded immediately after use. 
Different Types of Catheters

What Is a Female Catheter?

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

  • External Female Catheters: Many women are turning to female catheters that can be used externally because of their relatively non-invasive approach. Female external catheters are placed between the woman’s labia and buttocks and are comprised of a soft and flexible material that is connected to a plastic collection canister for easy disposal. 
  • 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 has an included 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 Closed System Catheters: Female closed system catheters are similar to hydrophilic catheters in that they are pre-lubricated, however, they are one step above in convenience because they are pre-housed in their own collection bag and connected to drainage tubing. Women are using this type of catheter with more frequency due to it’s increased safety and ease-of-use. 
  • Female Straight Catheters: Female straight catheters are one of the most commonly used and most basic. Also known as in-and-out catheters, this type of catheter is uncoated and requires external lubrication prior to insertion into the female’s urethra. 

How Is a Female Catheter Different Than a Male Catheter?

As shown above, men and women use many of the same types of catheters, but there are some distinctly designed for male or female use. But how is a female catheter different than a male catheter and are there difference 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. Often, a woman’s urethra can measure around 3-4 cm in length, whereas a male urethra is 18-20 cm in length. 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?

The type of catheter that is used by men and women will be determined by their respective physicians or health care team. That being said, it’s essential that catheter patients or their caregivers are actively involved in the discussion of what type of catheter they use. Some questions to consider that can help determine the male catheter or female catheter that will work best can include: 

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

How Active Life Medical Can Help with Male Catheters and Female Catheters

When you’re in need of a male catheter or female catheter supply, you need a medical supplier that you can trust and rely on to get you the supplies you need, when you need them. This is where Active Life Medical can help.

Active Life Medical makes the entire catheter supply process easy. We carry the brands you trust, the styles you need, and can help you get your supply covered through most insurances when prescribed by your physician. Plus, you can get everything delivered directly and discreetly to your door fast.

We have experienced and highly trained customer service representatives who are standing by to answer your questions and walk you through the entire process. Give us a call at 800-319-2336 today to get started.

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