Living With a Suprapubic Catheter

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on May 09, 2023
4 min read

After you get a suprapubic catheter, you may notice a change in the way you live your life. You might find it more comfortable than other types you've used, and you'll be able to do most of the activities that you enjoy.

A suprapubic catheter is a way for you to get urine out of your body if you have trouble peeing on your own. A doctor puts a tube into your bladder through a cut that they make in your belly. Your pee flows into a bag that's outside your body.

If you have a suprapubic catheter, you should be able to drive, go to work, and exercise, as long as you don't have a health condition that could get in the way. You can even swim, as long as the water is clean. You can get drainage bags small enough that other people won't be able to see them under your bathing suit.

One helpful tip: Your activities will be easier -- and the catheter less likely to come out -- if you tape or strap the tube to your stomach or legs. The drainage bag stays hidden under your clothes. You can prevent your skin from getting irritated if you regularly switch the leg that the bag rests on.

A suprapubic catheter may let you keep up your sex life. The catheter isn't near your vagina or penis, so it doesn't get in the way when you're having sex the way other catheters can.

You need to get your catheter changed regularly. Your doctor will change it 4 to 6 weeks after they put it in. After that, you should be able to do it on your own, usually every 1 to 3 months, unless there's a problem that makes you need to replace it right away. Your doctor will give you instructions that you can follow at home.

It's important to keep yourself clean. Take a shower or bath every day, and always wash your hands with soap and water before and after you touch the catheter.

You also need to keep the catheter clean. Wash it every day with water that has been boiled and then cooled. You can also use a sterile saline (salt) solution. If there's still dried blood or mucus near the catheter, dab it with hydrogen peroxide mixed with water.

Always keep the catheter tube below your bladder and make sure there are no kinks, so urine keeps flowing easily.

Don't worry if you see blood in your urine after putting in a new catheter. That's normal and should stop in 24 hours.

Most suprapubic catheters come with a drainage bag that collects your urine until you can empty it out in the toilet or another container. Many people use a large bag at night and a smaller one during the day. You need to empty both types when they are about half-full or a little over.

Again, wash your hands with soap and water before and after you touch the bag, and make sure it doesn't brush against the toilet or container. This will help prevent infections.

Like catheters, you need to change your drainage bags regularly. It could be every week or month, depending on the type of bag. If there's a leak or rip, or the bag starts to smell, you need to change it right away.

When you are done with a bag, wrap it and put it into the trash.

Some catheters have a valve instead of a bag. The urine stays in your bladder until you uncap the valve and drain the pee into the toilet or a container. Wash your hands before you touch the valve.

One of the best things you can do to take care of yourself is drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of fluid every day to keep the pee flowing. Your best choices are water and juice, especially cranberry juice, which helps ward off urinary tract infections. Go easy on caffeinated tea, coffee, and carbonated soda.

Call your doctor right away if you're having trouble changing your catheter. Also get in touch with your doctor if you notice any of these things:

  • Fever or chills, which could be signs of an infection.
  • No urine comes out of the catheter, which could mean it's blocked.
  • Pee leaks around the catheter. (It's normal with a new one but should stop with time.)
  • Skin gets irritated around the spot where your doctor put in the catheter.
  • Blood in your urine for more than 24 hours.
  • Bladder spasms. (They're normal in the first few weeks after you get a new catheter, but your doctor may be able to treat them with drugs.)
  • Skin tags around the catheter start to bleed or make it harder to change your catheter.
  • Your pee looks cloudy, which could mean you have a urinary tract infection.
  • Your urine smells, or it turns anything other than a light, yellow color.