Tokophobia: The Phobia Of Pregnancy And Childbirth

Last updated by Lauren Hart

Are you afraid of giving birth? Deep down, we’re all a bit scared. But if this fear seems irrational, you may suffer from tokophobia. Beyond the typical anxiety of mothers-to-be, yours is very intense. A sickly fear of suffering or even death, a premonition that you won’t be a good mother... Tokophobia is thought to affect between 2.5% and 14% of women and casts a shadow over plans to have children, pregnancies, and life in general. How can this phobia be detected and overcome? Let’s talk about it.

Tokophobia: The Phobia Of Pregnancy And Childbirth

What is tokophobia (or tokophobia)?

Tokophobia or tocophobia has a simple definition, as it literally means “phobia of childbirth”.

According to researchers at the University of Liverpool’s Better Births Center, the number of people suffering from tokophobia is rising all the time. At Liverpool Maternity Hospital, for example, cases of this phobia have increased by 40% over the last three years...

Most mothers-to-be experience anxiety, but in this case, the fear is extreme and persistent. This phobia is linked to fear of pain, fear of death, and the link between sexuality and childbirth. It’s characterized by an irrational fear following a confrontation with specific objects, actions, or situations. This can lead to sudden panic, triggering an anxiety attack.

The 3 types of tokophobia

We all feel anxious about giving birth, with the contractions and the uncertainty of the process, but some of us may have a paralyzing fear that interferes with our desire to become pregnant or with the smooth running of the pregnancy. However, not everyone experiences phobia in the same way. There are 3 types of tokophobia:

  • Primary tokophobia: This is often observed in women who have never given birth. Fear of childbirth generally stems from traumatic experiences in the past.
  • Secondary tokophobia: These women have generally had a traumatic experience during a previous birth which has triggered a fear of giving birth again.
  • Tokophobia as a symptom of antenatal depression: The woman realizes her pregnancy and the responsibilities it entails, and thinks she isn’t capable of taking on this role.

👋 You may be interested in this article: I don't want to leave my baby!

The tokophobia test: how to know if you’re affected?

As many women are afraid of childbirth, or even pregnancy, it’s sometimes difficult to know whether you’re actually affected by it. However, there are clear signs that you’re more at risk of suffering from tokophobia if you have:

  • ✅ A fear of being hurt,
  • ✅ A fear of pain and complications during childbirth,
  • ✅ A history of anxiety, depression or mood disorders,
  • ✅ Already had a traumatic experience of childbirth,
  • ✅ Already had a traumatic experience such as sexual assault,
  • ✅ Heard negative testimonials that biased your views,
  • ✅ A lack of information during pregnancy.

The consequences of this phobia

Tokophobia can cause anxiety, insomnia and eating disorders, among other things. Vomiting may accompany pregnancy, a sign of strong rejection of the pregnancy. Indeed, while some consequences are visible, others are invisible, such as antenatal depression. The person with a phobia will suffer a great deal, which can lead to postpartum depression following childbirth.

During pregnancy, there may be a lack of attachment to the developing fetus, or even worse. Anxiety-provoking thoughts can lead the mother-to-be to terminate her pregnancy out of fear rather than choice. Of course, everyone’s free to do what they want with their body, but in this case it’s the phobia that leads to the abortion.

Tokophobia: treatments and solutions

Treating tokophobia seems insurmountable, especially when the patient’s already pregnant. However, nothing’s impossible, as you can undergo cognitive and behavioral therapy (CBT) before or during your pregnancy. The therapist will be able to reduce your anxiety by working on the ideas that fuel your fears. In the case of secondary tokophobia, there’s post-traumatic stress, so it’s best to turn to EMDR therapy, which targets the trauma.

1. Get reassurance from competent medical staff

Some patients need to be reassured that they have as much information as possible. It may therefore be worth visiting the obstetrics department and talking to the midwives and obstetricians during your pregnancy. Good monitoring, with birth preparation adapted to your temperament, can help you overcome this fear.

2. Practice relaxation

There’s nothing like a session of prenatal yoga or sophrology to relieve stress. Admittedly, these are secondary solutions, but if they can help you evacuate the toxins accumulated by anxiety, they can only be beneficial. It will allow you to let go of everything that doesn’t need to be there 🧘‍♀️.

3. Get support

If you haven’t already done so, involve the father-to-be in this adventure and share your anxieties with him, so that he can help you deal with them more effectively. You should know that paternity leave can be a beneficial solution to help you on a day-to-day basis. You may think that no one else is experiencing this intense fear, but you’re not alone. Friends, family and doctors are there to listen to you, so don’t isolate yourself. Talking about it is comforting and very beneficial.

Editor’s note – Don’t let fear dictate your choices

Pregnancy and childbirth are milestones in your life. Of course, these are important times when you can experience things you’re not used to, but anxiety will only make things worse. That’s why it’s important to learn to distance yourself from your anxious thoughts and the anticipation you have about these stages. Don’t hesitate to consult a therapist for guidance in overcoming this state of mind, which can have such a negative impact on your life. Getting rid of your fear and regaining the upper hand are essential if you’re to lead your life the way you want to and be fully happy!

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!


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Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

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