Fear of Pregnancy(Tokophobia): Causes, Symptoms, Overcoming

The fear of pregnancy – Tokophobia is the fear of pregnancy or childbirth. The word derives from the Greek topos, which means beginning, and phobia, which is fear or intense fear of a situation/object. Other names for this fear are Tocophobia, Enfantaphobia, Mayusiophobia, or Parturiphobia.

The British Journal of Psychiatry first documented this phobia only a decade ago. Before this, there was very little knowledge about Tokophobia, and it received very little attention than it deserved. After seeing a movie about childbirth, actress Helen Mirren confessed to being a tokophobia that upset her so much that she put off having children and “never wanted anything to do with childbirth.”


Causes of Tokophobia

  • The tokophobia may be secondary or primary. It can come from a bad previous experience or disorders of stress postpartum/post-traumatic, or it can happen to women who have not given birth before.
  • The most common causes of the primary type of Tokophobia include a history of sexual trauma, abuse, rape, termination of pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, or other negative episodes related to overwhelming pain, horrible hospital experiences, etc.
  • News and stories about women, particularly their mothers, suffering from severe pain or even dying during vaginal delivery can lead to pregnancy fears in young mothers or new mothers.
  • Experienced mothers often love to exaggerate the “horrors” experienced by first-time pregnant women during their labor without realizing that this is not the right thing to do.
  • To some extent, fear of giving birth is normal. After all, it is an event that most women experience only a few times.
  • But, for tokophobia people, this could mean a lifetime of fear of giving birth and having children that causes them to delay or postpone pregnancy.
  • This often leads to arguments between the spouses.

You may also be interested in reading: Fear Of Silence: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Overcoming.

Symptoms of fear of pregnancy

  • About 6 to 7% of women worldwide have Tokophobia. However, most do not speak of their fear until it is too late in the term. They then try to opt for cesarean deliveries, but many obstetricians do not understand or are sensitive about their situation, which leads to enormous anxiety for the mother.
  • Women suffering from fear of pregnancy phobia are often mistaken for “melodramatic” or “exaggerated.”
  • However, the patient experiences intense trauma due to the phobia.
  • The nightmares, sweating, and fear of death at the thought of giving birth often lead the person to postpone pregnancy forever, opt for an elective Caesarean, or psychosomatic disorders suffer continuously.
  • Many tokophobia women, especially those with a morbid fear of pregnancy, have been known to terminate their pregnancy midway because they are too scared to continue with it.
  • Some women do not even realize their phobia until they are nearing delivery.
  • This is when they begin to have recurring nightmares about the impending delivery.

The physical and psychological symptoms of Tokophobia vary depending on the intensity of the phobia.

  • Increased heart rate, rapid breathing
  • Panic and anxiety attacks
  • Nightmares
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Cry, shake, get hysterical
  • Thinking about death and dying
  • Vomiting and nausea at the thought of having “something alive” and “growing” inside the body.

Some tokophobia start crying just by seeing a pregnant woman on the street or even hearing the word “childbirth.”

Overcoming fear of pregnancy

Overcoming fear of pregnancy

  • Antidepressants and psychotherapeutic counseling are the most common methods to overcome Tokophobia.
  • Talking about the fear of pregnancy is also known to help women overcome it to some degree.
  • However, most are embarrassed and refuse to discuss it.
  • Online and offline forums are great places to vent such thoughts.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) are a few other ways to overcome tokophobia.
  • EMDR is specifically known to have an immediate effect and is a valuable therapy even in the later stages of pregnancy.
  • It helps reduce intense fear of pregnancy by processing previous traumatic memories associated with the phobia.

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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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