Pregnancy can be an intimidating thoughtfor a lot of people – that swollen baby bump, the nausea, the water retention and let’s not forget, those exhausting nine months which build up to labor – well, it’s not exactly a description of a good time.
Taking into account just what a daunting experience pregnancy can be, it is wholly understandable when women are skittish about bearing a child. However, for those women who happen to suffer from ‘Tokophobia,’ the anxiety revolving around labor can be downright debilitating.
Tokophobia – A Real Medical Condition
Just like the fear of heights and spiders, the extreme fear of pregnancy is real and is medically referred to as Tokophobia. Doctors describe Tokophobia as a pathological (read: disease-like) fear of pregnancy that happens to be so severe that it actually influences a woman’s decision to bear a baby (1).
It has been estimated that 1 in 10 childfree women have avoided conceiving due to an acute fear of pregnancy. Another recent survey surmises that it was a difficult birth that inculcated this phobia in 7% of the female population in the UK (2).
Additional triggers thought to be responsible for inducing Tokophobia include listening to negative delivery tales, watching TV shows, movies or other media that depict appalling childbirth experiences and also personal trials of stillbirths or miscarriages. The thoughts of surrendering of control in the midst of labor and pain are other common triggering factors for this condition.
According to British Pregnancy Advisory Service’s director of external affairs, Clare Murphy, some women are so certainin the belief that they cannot carry a baby to a full term that they opt for abortions.
Murphy furtherstates that the government must ensure freely accessible support services forwomensuffering from Tokophobia so that they can make well-informed decisionson their pregnancy.
“Some women’s fear is not simply the birth, but the horror of having another being inside them or of splitting in two. These women need intense support,” saysBirth Trauma Association co-founder, Maureen Treadwell.
According to Murphy, for such expectant mothers, requesting them to undergo a caesarian section can provide them with the feeling of having more control. However, she also agrees, that more times than not, women who make such a request of their doctor can getdisregardedas having a simple case of nerves. Murphy argues that medical professionals have a duty to offer some more options to expectant mothers who are afraid of traditional vaginal births.
Murphy also proceeds to warn that mothers-to-be who possess a rightful and sincere fear of childbirth mustn’t be labeled as eccentrics if they happen to have developed a possible case of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, due toa past pregnancy experience.
According to a spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr. Patrick O’Brien, it is entirely possible for women who suffer from Tokophobia to recover. O’Brien advocates treatment plans that include counseling or more specifically cognitive behavior therapy that can help women address anxiety and fears. Additionally, O’Brien also emphasizes that women must be given the rightful opportunity to discuss their concerns and expectations with their physicians.
If you have been experiencing an unusual and uncontrollable fear regarding pregnancy and childbirth that could have impacted your decision to become pregnant, then please consult a doctor regarding the same.
People suffer from phobias everyday, but always remember, courage isn’t the prospectoffacing a challenge without any fear. Not by a long shot! When one is afraid and decides to go ahead and tackle their problems anyway, that is courage.