How to Pee in a Cup

by Elissa Stein

You would think peeing in a cup would be as easy as, say, peeing in a cup (which, as a woman is a bit challenging but not rocket science). Turns out, I had no idea that there was a greater picture to all this, and with proper instruction and prior knowledge, I most likely could have saved myself weeks of unnecessary aggravation, stress, subway travel, borderline panic, and testing.

And so, going forward, I’ll be sharing what some (including my mother) will think is too much information. Also, if you’re reading this and you’re not a woman, none of this applies to you. But, should this enlighten one person and spare her the experiences I’ve had, exposing my ignorance will have served a greater purpose.

First—if you have your period, don’t give a urine sample. Let me repeat that:


Should you have your period when you’re at the doctor or the lab and no one asks if you’re menstruating, or about to or if you’re period’s just ended, take the initiative and mention it yourself.

Why? You want to avoid getting that phone call telling you there are red blood cells in your urine. And should you have your period when peeing in that cup,there will be red blood cells in your urine. How could there not be? You’re bleeding. Should you be attempting to donate a kidney, red blood cells are a major red flag (that couldn’t be helped) that will lead to extensive additional tests, not to mention sleepless nights.

Moving on . . .


I got this sage advice yesterday, on my way to give my fourth urine sample. Before that, not one word of instruction. Perhaps, at some other time in my life, I was given those direction but I can’t begin to imagine the last time I needed to leave a urine sample for anything. I’d suppose it was when I was pregnant but that was 1: over 10 years ago and 2: I was pregnant and my brain wasn’t retaining anything.

Every time I went to the lab I was handing a cup with a lid and a packet of moist towelettes. And that was it. No words of wisdom from the technicians. No instructions posted in the bathroom. 

(going forward my ignorance is astounding so please try not to judge)

First visit I never opened the packet of sterile wipes.

Second visit I used them to clean my hands.

Third visit, they served to sterilize my hands yet again.

Fourth visit, after sharing my frustration with the transplant coordinator about the poor results from the above tests, she asked if I was making sure to wipe twice, front to back.

No. No I hadn’t. I hadn’t realized those wipes were for anything but my hands. I’d never given a thought to the fact that those parts of my body, generally covered by underwear, could harbor various bacteria and such that could throw a perfectly good specimen into turmoil. I’m relatively certain that should I have  known the above, I wouldn’t be where I am now—terrified to get another phone call listing all the horrific diseases I might be suffering from.

I now know exactly how to produce a reasonable urine sample. And I’m hoping, everyone reading this, that going forward my experiences help you to avoid the ridiculous pee mistakes I made.

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