The honest answer, of course it hurts. You are getting a large needle stuck in your arm. It is just a matter of how much and is it enough to really bother you. It isn’t too different from giving blood, getting blood drawn, or receiving a flu shot.
No one really likes those things, but if you can handle that, you can probably handle plasma donation. Once the needle is in the arm, you don’t really notice it.
The biggest variable is usually the phlebotomist, who is the person who sticks the needle in. You’ve probably had some shots where you didn’t feel a thing and some that hurt a lot. It is typically the person behind the needle, not the needle itself, that makes things unpleasant.
If you do donate and have a bad initial experience with the needle stick, it was likely the phlebotomist and not the process itself. If shots and needles usually don’t bother you, may want to try again and ask for a more experienced person the 2nd time.
One thing to consider is the types of veins you have. If you have a small or hard to see veins, it can result in a more painful process. There could be a higher likelihood of them missing your vein or put the needle completely through the vein (infiltration). If that happens you may need to be stuck again or they might wiggle the needle around until they hit the vein.
Even if they get it to work, it may not result in a successful donation as the blood flow may be too slow or it may be uncomfortable for you. This is why being properly hydrated is critical for your donation as it will help “plump” up your veins. Refer to this article to help prepare for your first donation.
The other part of the plasma donation process that may cause some discomfort is the finger prick during the screening process. Even though that is just a small prick, some donors say it is actually more painful than the venipuncture (needle stick).
The key point to remember is you will not be in pain or discomfort for the full donation process. While the finger prick and needle insertion can be unpleasant, it’s just a few seconds. Not really that bad considering the money you can make for donating plasma.
If there are any side effects from the donation process, that can result in some pain as well. These are pretty rare, but should also be a consideration. See this post for more information on the potential side effects.