Giving birth to a child is one of the most intense experiences your body can go through. And when you are pregnant, anxiety and fear about labour and birth is next to normal. You can relate to the fear of contraction pains, interventions and the uncertainty of the process. But for some women, the fear of labour and birth can be so overwhelming that it overshadows their pregnancy and affects daily functioning.
Tokophobia is rare, but women who experience it often speak of overwhelming panic and an intense need to escape the situation. The fear becomes paralysing and terrifying and can become physically and emotionally disabling.
What causes tokophobia?
Fears are likely to be more common and intense in women who have never been pregnant or given birth (primary tokophobia). Women who have had previous pregnancies (secondary tokophobia) can also experience tokophobia.
Tokophobia can happen if you have:
- Hormonal changes that make anxiety harder to manage.
- Hearing stories from other women close to them who have been through traumatic births.
- Fears related to medical care like ineffective pain control, fear of loss of control or death, or lack of confidence in the team providing care.
- Psychosocial factors like being a young parent or at a social disadvantage.
- Psychological factors like low self-esteem, the revival of traumatic memories of childhood or psychiatric disorders like depression or anxiety.
Some women have a severe fear of childbirth because they have had a traumatic birth experience. In this case, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a different condition to tokophobia and needs different treatment.
In subsequent posts, we’ll be sharing practical tips on how to receive treatment and support in dealing with Tokophobia.