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Urinary catheterisation: Indications and complications

02 March 2016
9 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 3


This article highlights the ways in which women may be catheterised during labour and the postpartum period. This procedure should be avoided where possible, and should never be undertaken without considering the possible complications that may occur. Women should be informed of the potential complications before catheterisation occurs, where possible. To help reduce these complications, it is recommended that an appropriate anaesthetic, antiseptic, lubricating gel is used.

Increasing numbers of women, either during the birth process or in the postnatal period, require an indwelling urinary catheter for a number of reasons. This could be because the woman requires a caesarean section, or because she has been given epidural anaesthesia as a form of pain relief during labour and is therefore unable to pass urine. Alternatively, she may have had a postpartum haemorrhage and insertion of a catheter is recommended (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2014a).

There are two types of catheterisation: intermittent, where the catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra and removed as soon as the bladder is drained of urine; or indwelling, where the catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra and left in place to continuously drain the bladder. Whatever the reason or method, where possible it is essential that the procedure and complications of catheterisation are discussed fully with the woman.

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