If you have trouble emptying your bladder, your doctor may suggest an intermittent catheter. While many patients are hesitant at the thought of catheterization (especially when you’re asked to do it yourself), intermittent catheters can be a comfortable and effective solution to bladder incontinence. When used properly, they can improve the quality of your life and give you an active, flexible lifestyle that doesn’t include being tied to the toilet.

To help you take control over your catheter use, here are seven things you should know about intermittent self-catheterization.

It shouldn’t hurt.

While self-catheterization may not be comfortable, it shouldn’t cause physical pain. If you have pain when inserting an intermittent catheter, you may be using the wrong size or shape for your urethra. Your healthcare team can show you how to properly self-catheterize and find the right fit for you.

You have choices.

Intermittent catheters come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs to give you personal comfort. You can choose straight or coude tip catheters that can be pre-lubricated, hydrophilic-coated, uncoated, self-contained, and more.

It’s done several times per day.

Because intermittent catheters are used by patients that can’t properly empty their bladder, it’s typically done every 4 to 6 hours. Some patients who use intermittent catheters to prevent overflow or leakage may only use them 1 to 4 times per day. Your healthcare provider can help you determine when to self-catheterize.

It’s better for your bladder.

Indwelling catheters carry an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) because they stay inside your body for prolonged periods of time. When done properly, intermittent catheters can reduce the frequency of these infections. They can also lead to better bladder health by filling and draining like a normally functioning bladder.

Proper hygiene is key to good results.

To best reduce the risk of infection, practice good hygiene each time you insert or remove an intermittent catheter. This includes washing your hands thoroughly, keeping your supplies and private areas clean, and always self-cathing in a dry, clean environment.

It improves independence.

Patients who use intermittent catheters are in control of their own health. Because you aren’t connected to a drain line or collection bag, it’s easier to engage in physical activity and lead an independent lifestyle.

It may be more affordable.

Intermittent catheters do not require the same level of medical supervision as indwelling or foley catheters. For this reason, it may be a more affordable choice for patients with high-deductible policies or those who don’t have health insurance.