Tokophobia is an extreme and uncontrollable fear of childbirth or pregnancy. While pregnancy is expected to be a time when women experience long bouts of anxiety, when they develop a fear of childbirth so intense that it disrupts their ability to lead normal lives or have a normal birth, they very likely have tokophobia.
Symptoms of Tokophobia
If left untreated, tokophobia can only become more intense and damaging. Not only can this disorder lead to an elective termination of some pregnancies because of fear, but the psychological stress attendant with the disorder can often be damaging to a pregnancy even if the woman does not elect to terminate it. Furthermore, tokophobia may only be a byproduct of other emotional and behavioral disorders such as clinical depression. Some of the more apparent indicators of tokophobia include:
- Feelings of dread or panic when the idea of childbirth or pregnancy arises
- Refusing to go through with childbirth unless elective Caesarean section can be guaranteed
- An intense increase in anxiety or depression while pregnant
- Expressing a strong desire to have children while also refusing to become pregnant
- Previous terminations of apparently healthy pregnancies
- Intense fear that childbirth will result in maternal death, stillbirth, miscarriage or birth defects
Common Facts About Tokophobia
Women who have this disorder will likely refuse going through childbirth without some kind of sedative and they will often be very adamant about wanting a Caesarean section. Still, other women will avoid becoming pregnant altogether, despite their strong desire to have children. These women will often have very stringent contraceptive strategies, using several methods at once. In tokophobic women who went through normal pregnancies, as well as those who had Caesarean sections, some suffered further problems after childbirth such as postnatal depression and delayed bonding with their infants.
Like all phobias, no universal and specific cause exists to explain tokophobia. Rather, there are various unique factors and experiences that contribute to such a disorder. Some of these issues could include a previous traumatic childbirth experience, an intense fear of pain, or even childhood sexual abuse or rape.
Treatment of Tokophobia
It is important for someone who may have tokophobia to seek support from people who genuinely care, including an obstetrician who can work closely and cooperatively with a psychiatrist in order to ensure that the mother, the pregnancy, the infant and the postpartum relationship between the mother and child are healthy. As with any psychological disorder, the initial reasons for the development of the phobia should be addressed by a mental health professional. While much of the fear may stem from the physical pain of a previous birth or other traumatic event, a psychiatrist or psychologist should be able to refer sufferers of tokophobia to doctors that can help moderate the pain of pregnancy or childbirth if that is the best route of treatment to take. There may be some antidepressants available for pregnant women as well.
Tokophobia is definitely not a factor that should hinder a woman’s desire to go through childbirth and have a family. More often than not, this phobia is rooted in irrational fears based on traumatic events that a woman can very likely overcome. If you are seeking help with tokophobia, please seek the support of loved ones and your doctor. There are plenty of people willing to help with not only the symptoms of the disorder, but also the psychological difficulties attendant with it. If you believe your fears of pregnancy and childbirth are irrational, consider the pros and cons with those that know you best. If you think you need help deciding, you may want to ask your doctor.
- Wikipedia – definition of tokophobia.
- Royal College of Psychiatry – background info regarding tokophobia, as well as case studies and findings.
- Birth Trauma Counseling – various explanations about what may cause tokophobia as well as treatment.
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