The ability to freeze human eggs has been a major breakthrough in reproductive technology. It has empowered egg freezers with the option to delay childbearing, preserve their fertility in the face of medical conditions or treatments, and allow them to focus on their careers or personal goals without feeling so much of the pressure of the "biological clock."
At Cofertility, we help people navigate egg freezing and make it more affordable (even free if you qualify for our Split program). But if you’re afraid of needles, you may wonder if you can handle the egg freezing process. The short answer is yes, but it's important to understand the process and what to expect. As someone who personally overcame a fear of needles to undergo several egg retrievals, I hope to provide some insight and tips to help you feel more at ease.
If you’re afraid of needles, you’re not alone!
If you have a fear of needles, know that you aren’t alone. In fact, 1 in 4 adults have strong fears around needles! The difference between a fear and a phobia is that phobias are considered unfounded fears when you are not actually in danger. Phobias are harder to control and need more work to overcome.
Fears and phobias can vary from mild to severe – and it’s good to take stock of where you fall on that spectrum. Regardless, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
Needle phobia and egg freezing: can you freeze eggs without shots and blood draws?
Unfortunately, there is currently no way to freeze your eggs without needles (calling all scientists: if you invent a way to make this possible, it will be game changing!). This is because the process of egg freezing involves stimulating the ovaries with hormones (aka fertility medication) to produce multiple eggs, which are then retrieved with a needle while under anesthesia. There are also blood draws to determine your hormone levels, and an IV for sedation during the retrieval itself. So, unfortunately, shots and blood draws are a necessary part of the process.
How do I get over my fear of egg freezing needles?
If you are afraid of needles, it's important to acknowledge your fear and work through it. Ignoring or avoiding the issue will only make it worse. Here are some strategies that may help you overcome your fear:
- Education: Learn as much as you can about the egg freezing process. Knowing what to expect can make it less scary. Talk to others who have gone through the process.
- Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which consists of directly facing the object (needles) that causes you fear. You would work with a therapist through graduated exposure until you are no longer fearful.
- Deep breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to help you relax.
- Visualization: Visualize yourself going through the process successfully and feeling proud of yourself for facing your fear.
- Distraction: Listen to music, watch puppy videos, or chat with the nurse to take your mind off the injections. The good news is that they are quick!
Talking to your egg freezing doctor about your needle phobia
Talking to your doctor or nurse coordinator about your needle phobia is an important step in managing your fear and making the egg freezing process more manageable. When discussing your phobia with your doctor, be open and honest. Remember that there is no shame, and that your doctor has worked with many patients like you!
Explain your fear and how it affects you, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Your doctor can provide you with information and support to help you feel more comfortable during the process. Together, you can work out a plan to manage your fear and find ways to make the injections less intimidating. Remember, your doctor is there to help you, and communication is key to a successful egg freezing experience.
How many injections are needed for egg freezing?
The number of injections required for egg freezing can vary depending on the individual and the specific protocol used, but typically ranges from one to three injections per day for the duration of the stimulation which is typically between 10-12 days. Your doctor will monitor your progress and adjust the dosage as needed.
How many blood draws are needed for egg freezing?
You will likely need several blood draws during your egg freezing journey to see how your hormones are responding. Blood draws, also known as venipuncture or phlebotomy, is a procedure in which blood is taken from a vein in your arm for laboratory testing.
Inform the technician about your needle phobia, as they may be able to use a smaller needle or a different technique to minimize pain. And if you are prone to experiencing lightheadedness when getting your blood drawn, make sure to let your technician know. Asking if they can do the blood draw while you’re laying down rather than sitting up can make a huge difference!
Insider tricks: reducing pain during egg freezing shots
While egg freezing injections can be uncomfortable, I found the shots to not be as bad as I thought they would be. Plus, they go by very quickly. Here are strategies you can try to make them easier and less painful:
- Numbing cream. Use a numbing cream on the injection site before the shot can help reduce discomfort (get your doctor’s approval before doing this).
- Buzzy Bee. I learned about the Buzzy Bee on Shark Tank, and it actually worked for me! The combination of vibration and ice pain-blocking methods is actually FDA 510(k) for pain control.
- Phone a friend. Try having someone else administer the shot while you distract yourself. My husband was my shot-giver, and he did a way better job than I could have!
- Warm shower. Take a warm shower before the injection can help relax your muscles, making it easier for the needle to be inserted.
- Deep breathing. Practice deep breathing or relaxation techniques. Focusing on your breath and practicing mindfulness can help to distract you from the pain and reduce your perception of it.
- A treat. Set aside a treat for the end, as your reward for being brave! For me, it was chocolate and TV.
If you're still experiencing significant pain, talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe pain medication or suggest other strategies to make the injections more manageable.
Are there different types of needles that are easier to administer or less painful?
There are different types of needles that can be used for injections based on each medication, but the type used for egg freezing is typically a small, thin needle that is relatively painless. If you are concerned about pain from needles, talk to your doctor about any alternative options.
The benefits of facing your fear of needles and freezing your eggs
Freezing your eggs can be an empowering way to take control of your fertility, but it can be daunting if you have a fear of needles. While the process does involve injections, there are strategies you can use to manage your fear and make the experience more comfortable. Educate yourself about the process, practice relaxation techniques, and communicate with your doctor to find the best approach for you. By focusing on the big picture of future fertility and celebrating your courage, you can empower yourself to face your fears and take control of your reproductive health.
Cofertility is in the “family” business, striving to make egg freezing and third-party reproduction more human-centered and accessible for all. Our Freeze by Co program allows you to freeze your eggs for free, when you give half to a family who can't otherwise conceive.