A urine test is a good way for doctors and nurses to help understand your general health, or to diagnose some conditions.
What are urine tests used for?
Urine can be tested for many different things. You might be asked to take a urine test to:
- confirm pregnancy
- diagnose an infection, such as a urinary tract infection
- diagnose or monitor diseases, such as diabetes, bladder cancer or sexually transmitted infections
- check your kidney function
- look for blood in the urine
- monitor recreational drug use; for example, as part of a pre-employment screen or rehabilitation program
How do I take a urine sample?
To get a clear reading, it’s important not to contaminate the urine sample. When collecting a urine sample:
- make sure you clean your genital area before taking the sample
- make sure the container does not touch your genitals during collection
- take the sample from the middle of the urine stream; that is, not at the start or finish of urination (some urine tests, such as pregnancy tests, may require urine from the beginning of the stream)
- tell the doctor or nurse about any drugs or medications you are taking as they may affect the results
Your doctor might ask you to take a 24-hour urinary collection test. This is a good way to understand how your kidneys function. You will be given containers to collect all of the urine you pass.
What is a urine dipstick test?
A urine dipstick test allows for instant results without having to wait for analysis in a laboratory.
The doctor or nurse puts a small stick containing coloured patches into your urine, and gets almost immediate results. The patches can change colour, depending on what’s in your urine. Dipstick tests can be used in many different circumstances.
Urine pregnancy test
Many urine pregnancy tests can be bought over the counter and used at home, but they can also be done by a doctor or nurse. Tests done in a laboratory are more accurate than home test kits.
Most pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine. hCG is produced by the placenta, so is only found in the body if a woman is pregnant. hCG can be detected in your urine from about 6-14 days after fertilisation. Most pregnancy tests can detect hCG in your urine on the first day that your period is due.
Urinary drug test
Urine can be used to test for drugs. It can be done simply at the bedside (or workplace or sports venue), or it can be very complicated testing done in a laboratory.
Urine tests for sexually transmitted infections
Urine can also be tested for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. The tests need to be sent to a laboratory, and results usually take a few days.
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Last reviewed: April 2020