Things We Don’t Talk About #382: Urine Samples

Does anyone else have trouble providing a urine sample, or is it only me?

This week, after a medical checkup, I had to provide blood and urine samples. The person taking the blood sample was very efficient and that part of the process was easy. After that, though, she provided me with that little plastic container that I dread. I know I’m not good at this. About a year ago I had to provide a sample and messed it up.

(Advance notice: in case you had not already realized, this post includes discussion of pee and female body parts. If that troubles you, read no further.)

Image by maja7777 from Pixabay

The main problems that I have are that the container is too small and the instructions do not seem easily applicable to women.

I should explain that the little plastic sample container is about the same diameter as an egg cup and probably not as tall. Please keep that image in mind as you read the instructions for its use.

The instructions are that, first, one is to cleanse the appropriate area of the body with the sterilized wipes provided. Then, one is to take a sample of urine mid-stream. I will repeat that. Mid-stream. This makes a couple of assumptions, neither of which applies to me. First, the implication is that one’s urine comes out in a narrow stream such that capturing it means simply holding the container under the stream. The second assumption is that one has sufficient physical control to be able to pee a little bit, stop, then pee the rest.

Urine Sample from Turbotorque via Wikimedia

As you will know, a woman’s urethra is surrounded by labia. That is to say, the pee may be hindered in its efforts at forming a narrow stream. It presents itself more like a spray than a stream. Knowing this, when I had to provide a urine sample last year, I held the little container as close as I could to capture the spray. This, it turned out, was wrong. I had failed in my urine sampling procedure because the sample was contaminated by the container’s contact with my body. So, I was shamed twice; once by having used the wrong procedure and once by finding out that my body is a contaminant.

Bearing this in mind, when I was asked to provide a sample this week I told the technician that I had trouble in doing this in the past. She asked if I wanted a “hat” but I didn’t know what she meant. She said, “You know. Like the ones we give to children. It fits over the toilet.” Aside from feeling infantilized, I was quite happy to hear this. I thought it would solve my problem.

The washroom at the clinic provides a helpful wall chart explaining how one is supposed to collect the sample but it was not possible to read this while seated on the toilet because it was at my side. It provided instructions for men on one half of the chart and for women on the other, so the font was small enough to fit all that information on the page. This meant I couldn’t read it. I wasn’t wearing my reading glasses and by then I was too far from my handbag to get them easily, so I just looked (sideways) at the diagram.

Specimen Collector Pan from Medline via

I had placed the plastic hat over the forward part of the toilet bowl and prepared myself to hold the container in one hand and separate my labia with the other while being mindful of the need to collect a mid-stream sample. I had the choice of either trying to stop peeing and then starting again or simply adjusting my position partway through so that the latter portion of pee hit the hat.

Well, I failed spectacularly. I started to pee into the toilet bowl but failed to stop the stream. So I then, belatedly, adjusted my position so that I peed into the hat. But, sadly, I was too late. I didn’t have much pee to offer in the first place and by the time I got it aimed appropriately, I had very little left. There was just about a teaspoonful in the hat.

I don’t know how much pee is needed for the technicians to do their tests, but I can’t help feeling that a teaspoonful is not enough. Nevertheless, like a spy leaving secret evidence, I placed my sample container into the cubbyhole between the walls. Then, I left the clinic as purposefully as I could, without looking to the left or right.

I went straight out the door hoping that no-one would chase after me waving my little container of pee and shouting “Wait! Wait! We need more than this!” I had been humiliated enough already.


  1. I’m rolling on the floor laughing. All clinics must be the same, because I have the same experiences.
    Anne, you are an expert in communication. Maybe you could re-write the instructions and submit them to someone who would listen–whoever that may be.

    • I am so glad I made you laugh, Bea! I’m also glad to know I’m not alone in failing at this. I think the instructions need to be entirely visual, not verbal, so they should probably hire whoever does the Ikea instructions.

  2. This needs to be sent to every gynecologist in the country. I have never ever been able to hit the cup. You speak for so many of us. Love it.

  3. I know it might seem odd for a bloke to comment on this but now that I have managed to stopping laughing … if I may?

    There is an episode of Top Gear where, during their News segment they talked about a ”Shewee.”
    This small plastic device is supposed to be used by women in the event a loo is not readily available.
    Hilarious examples of when ans where this might be used included , while driving and In queues ( this was an actual example listed on the packet) Having a pee while at the Post Office?
    Anyway … the device had what looked like a narrow spout at one end which might help?
    Thre are vidoe reviews too …

  4. One time, when I was in my 20s, I thought I had it right, but didn’t look down and when I did….I found that I had been peeing on the floor! #notsurehowIdidthat #ismyfaceredorwhat? #easierthanyoumightthink…evidently

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