Swimming can be an excellent cardiovascular workout and a valuable addition to your exercise regimen. Several medical conditions necessitate the use of a urinary catheter to drain the bladder and this can present unique challenges while in the water. Swimming with a catheter is possible as long as you take certain precautions before entering the pool; discuss the process with your doctor, too, as she may have advice specific to your situation.
Two Types of Urinary Catheters
There are two locations for a urinary catheter. The suprapubic catheter is positioned just above the pubic bone and the tubing accesses the bladder directly through a surgical incision in the skin and muscle. Meanwhile, the Atlas of Pelvic Surgery website explains, urethral catheter passes through the urethra and into the bladder; there is no surgical incision in this type of catheter.
Capping the Catheter
The main consideration with both catheters is to ensure that the urine does not flow back into the bladder. This can cause bacteria to flow into the bladder, creating an opportunity for infection. Both the suprapubic and urethral catheters use the same tubing and collection system to collect urine; this is referred to as a Foley catheter. Prior to swimming, ensure that the catheter balloon is inflated properly and disconnect the drainage bag. A plug is available that fits the end of the tubing which will stop drainage.
Securing the Tubing
Once the catheter is capped, it may be tucked into a man's swim shorts or a woman's swimsuit. The end of the tubing that protrudes from the body is 6 to 8 inches long and should be readily concealable. The tubing should cause no loss of mobility in the water; however, in the case of the urethral catheter, the motion of your swimming can cause some irritation at the entrance to the urethra.
In the case of the suprapubic catheter, it is essential that the surgical site is completely healed before taking a tub bath or swimming. Consult the surgeon who placed the catheter before attempting these activities.