If the thought of getting a needle or injection sends you into a panic or makes you nauseous, you are not alone. Many people are afraid of needles and it is not uncommon to see needle phobias being mentioned as a concern on pregnancy forums. The thought of blood work, IVs and epidurals can cause a sense of overwhelm and anxiety in many women, especially those who are pregnant for the first time, sometimes before they step foot into a doctor’s office.
What is a needle phobia?
The National Health Service in the UK defines a needle phobia as: ‘a fear of medical procedures that involve needles or injections.’ It affects at least 10% of the population so if you are one of them, rest assured that you are not alone and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Trypanophobia, the scientific name for needle phobia, is both inherited and learned. For some people, a panicky feeling or anxiety around needles can stem from negative past experiences, either their own or from observing adults responding in fear during their own childhoods. Others may experience a vasovagal response, where fear of receiving a needle may not exist so much as fear of the physical response that comes after it – a drop in blood pressure and fainting or dizziness afterwards.
Why is it important to talk about needle phobias during pregnancy?
One study showed that pregnancy outcomes in women with needle phobia were good, despite delayed acceptance in routine tests compared to those without needle phobia. This is good news, but the study also highlighted how important it is for women to tell their healthcare provider that they have a needle phobia so unnecessary stress can be avoided and so they can be supported.
Our own research has shown that depression and anxiety in pregnancy can last for years. Many women think that if they struggle with depression or anxiety during pregnancy it will all go away when the baby is born. Recent studies tell us this just isn’t true.
What many people don’t realize is that some women’s struggles started during pregnancy. Yes – prenatal depression and anxiety can continue – for years. In fact, for over 20 years based on research of over 3,000 Australian women.
In our research, we’ve found that 22% of pregnant women struggle with anxiety. In fact, prenatal anxiety is one of the least understood – and most missed – diagnoses in pregnancy.
What can I do to overcome needle phobia?
If you have a needle phobia, there are several things you can do to manage your fear of needles in order to reduce the effects of anxiety in pregnancy.
- Tell your healthcare provider about your worries. They may be able to answer any questions you may have or chat with you to distract you.
- Bring a friend or spouse with you to appointments. It may help to have a familiar face present.
- Practice breathing deeply to calm your nerves.
- Talk about it on a forum – it may help to know how others coped and help you feel less alone and encouraged.
- Ask questions so you know what’s ahead. Having a sense of control and understanding can go a long way.
There are many ways to cope with a fear of needles. If your fear is associated with fainting, or feeling faint, you can practice an applied tension technique and face your fears as described by the Guy’s and Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
Other helpful resources include
- Overcoming Your Needle Phobia (Fear of Needles)
- 5 Tips on Facing a Fear of Needles During Labor From a Nurse Who Gets It
- 40 Tips to Help You Overcome Pregnancy Needle Phobia.
Over to you
Do you have needle phobia? How did you, or are you, coping with it during pregnancy? Remember, if needles cause you anxiety, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t let embarrassment stop you from bringing up your concerns to your healthcare provider. It is important to take steps to manage anxiety as much possible during pregnancy as it can help promote better mental health in postpartum. Browse the blog to learn more about what you can do to care for your emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond!
 Guy’s and Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust UK, October 2017, “Overcoming your needle phobia (fear of needles),” Guy’s and Thomas NHS Foundation Trust UK, https://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/all-patients/overcoming-your-fear-of-needles.pdf
 Cheryl Carmin, PhD, October 31, 2018, “How to overcome your fear of needles,” The Ohio State University – Wexner Medical Center, https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/shot-anxiety
 Hamilton JG. Needle phobia: a neglected diagnosis. J Fam Pract. 1995;41(2):169-175.
 McAllister, N., Elshtewi, M., Badr, L., Russell, I. F., & Lindow, S. W. (2012). Pregnancy outcomes in women with severe needle phobia. European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology, 162(2), 149–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejogrb.2012.02.019
 Kingsbury, A. M., Hayatbakhsh, R., Mamun, A. M., Clavarino, A. M., Williams, G., & Najman, J. M. (2015). Trajectories and predictors of women’s depression following the birth of an infant to 21 years: a longitudinal study. Maternal and child health journal, 19(4), 877–888. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-014-1589-6
 Dawn Kingston, January 22, 2018, “The Most Common Problem in Pregnancy,” Dr. Dawn Kingston, https://www.drdawnkingston.com/the-most-common-problem-in-pregnancy/
 Searing, K., Baukus, M., Stark, M. A., Morin, K. H., & Rudell, B. (2006). Needle phobia during pregnancy. Journal of obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing : JOGNN, 35(5), 592–598. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1552-6909.2006.00076.x