Self cath

I’m new to the group, met with my doctor and long story short was told if I can’t relieve my bladder on my own I need to self cath… I can’t wrap my mind around this how do I even start? Where do I go?Let me back up a bit my MS has gotten a lil outta control developed a uti and can’t seen to get rid of it even with antibiotics. I need to start iv steroids but can’t until my uti is treated… Any help?

Hi Nicole

Self catheterising, otherwise known as intermittent self catheterisation (ISC) sounds a lot scarier than it is.

If you can’t wee ‘normally’, then the urine sits in your bladder for too long and that’s why you’ll get UTIs: the bacteria that’s present just gets a chance to multiply and grow.

ISC when you start seems a bit awkward and difficult. Essentially you need to know firstly what your anatomy looks like ‘downstairs’ and exactly what the opening of the urethra looks like and feels like when you put a catheter in. Most people start doing ISC using a mirror. I started by doing it on the bed, using a catheter with a bag attached and a mirror. Then one day about 4 months in, I just sat on the loo and thought, ‘right I’ll give it a go without the mirror’. And it was much easier than I thought. That was six years ago. Today it’s just normal.

If you can’t wee on your own, it may be that you have a similar problem to me (hooray, someone like me!). Basically, I can’t make the sphincters open on demand. You have a pair of sphincters that allow you to pass urine, one squeezes while the other opens. If you don’t have control over them, then you either have the problem of not being able to shut the sphincters off, leading to incontinence, or you just can’t open them at all, so you retain urine instead. The second problem is what I’ve got, and it sounds like you have.

The catheters that you use to ISC have an end that you hold and a flexible sterile end that you push into the urethra. What is best is a catheter that is firm enough to hold steady whilst soft enough to not cause irritation. (If it’s too soft and floppy, it’s like threading cooked spaghetti into a straw.) They come individually wrapped and are mostly self lubricated or ‘hydrophilic’. This means the plastic they are made of becomes slippery when wet, and inside the package is a bubble of saline which you either squeeze open or comes open when you twist the tube open.

In my opinion, the best types are called Speedicath and Lofric. They each have the right amount of softness and rigidity and are hydrophilic.

You’ll be taught how to do ISC by either a bladder and bowel nurse from the NHS or a nurse from a delivery company. I had the pleasure of learning from both. Initially it’s a bit embarrassing, but you do get used to people staring at your bits!

I would expect that your MS nurse (if you have one sorted yet) will help you out with exactly what the process is in your area for starting ISC.

With regard to your UTI, you have my sympathy. The hospital lab where your wee sample is sent should be able to identify the exact strain of bacteria and then know which antibiotic will cure it. And as you say, once you have your UTI sorted, you can get some steroids.

Welcome to the community which we’d all rather not have to belong to, but are able to support each other and even have a laugh or two while we’re at it.


Hi Nicole,

Ask your GP, MS Nurse or neurologist for a referral to a Continence Nurse.

They will take you through the entire process as well as measuring how much urine you are retaining using ultrasound.

Best wishes,



i wouldn’t be without my catheters now.

some days no amount of rocking back and forwards seems to help me to wee.

it takes a LOT of practice but you will master it.

you can become an ex rocker like me.

now i’m only a rocker if i’m watching a band!