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What’s Tokophobia? Are you afraid to have a baby?

What’s Tokophobia? Are you afraid to have a baby?

If you are currently thinking about getting pregnant or expecting, you may feel nervous or anxious about giving birth. However, the fear of labour sometimes becomes overwhelming and all-consuming for some women in Australia. If you have the same issue, you should consider reading this post. We shall be sharing information to help you know if the fear you have is typical or if you have a severe childbirth fear known as tokophobia.

Is tokophobia a mental illness?
Is tokophobia a mental illness?

What is tokophobia?

Tokophobia can simply be defined as an extreme fear of conceiving and childbirth. Most women in Australia who have this problem often choose to avoid conceiving and giving birth altogether, even though they desire to have a child. Others choose to get pregnant even if they have the fear because their desire to get a child of their own is much greater.

Most of the fear surrounding tokophobia is due to injury or pain. Other women are generally just worried about not having control during labour.

Tokophobia can be broken down into two categories:

  • Primary tokophobia – this occurs in women who have never been pregnant before. The fear can develop before pregnancy (even during the young or adulthood years) or during pregnancy.
  • Secondary tokophobia – this occurs in women who fear undergoing the process of delivering a child even though they already have one. This is often common amongst women who had a traumatic birth or labour experience or after stillbirth or miscarriage.

Symptoms of tokophobia

While the fear of childbirth is the primary characteristic of tokophobia, it is not the only symptom that women experience. Most tokophobia symptoms are linked with other generalized anxiety disorders and depressive disorders. They may interfere with various aspects of a woman’s life, from the diet to sleep to the general mood.

Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Symptoms of depression-like body pain, decreased  libido or appetite, losing interest in favourite activities
  • Panic attacks or increasing anxiety symptoms like headaches, irrational worry, or fatigue
  • Avoiding intercourse
  • Fixation on the things that  may go wrong during childbirth, such as congenital disabilities, child death, all maternal death
  • Doing everything possible to avoid getting pregnant (like using various birth control methods)
  • Requesting cesarean delivery without any medical reasons
  • Avoiding or delaying pregnancy even when you desire to have kids
How do you get over tokophobia?
How do you get over tokophobia?

Possible causes of tokophobia

Currently, there isn’t a clear-cut or obvious reason why some women develop tokophobia. For some, it may occur due to the accumulation of fears, experiences, preconceived notions, and thoughts about childbirth that develop over the years. But, there are some common factors that are linked with the increased tokophobia risk, and they include:

Medical fears

Most women who have primary tokophobia might have more significant fears about everything related to the medical field. This may include the fear of hospitals, doctors, losing control, pain, or undergoing medical procedures common during childbirth.

Women who are also victims of medical mistreatment all malpractice by healthcare professionals in the past can also develop tokophobia. This is because they lack trust in the medical professionals who are supposed to help them during childbirth. Women who also familiarize themselves with the knowledge of potential childbirth complications or risks tend to have tokophobia.

Distressing personal history

If you had a traumatic sexual experience in the past, you might have fears of childbirth. This is common whether the experiences you had occurred during adulthood or childhood.

Disturbing birth experiences

This is particularly common in women who have secondary tokophobia. If you had a traumatic birth experience when giving birth to your baby, you might be hesitant about going through the same again. This is especially true if you did experience a painful, complicated, or challenging birth experience, and your fears will be similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.

This can also happen if you have a stillbirth, abortion, or miscarriage. Some women may also develop this form of tokophobia after having a healthy or normal prior birth.

History of depression and anxiety

If you have a history of certain medical health conditions such as depression and anxiety, your chances of developing tokophobia may be higher. Some evidence even prenatal depression increases the chances of tokophobia. However, this is not a common occurrence.

Diagnosis of tokophobia

Like other physiological conditions such as phobias, tokophobia can be diagnosed by a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or competent clinical social worker. In other cases, a primary care provider or OB/GYN can also make a diagnosis depending on your symptoms.

Treatment of tokophobia

Even though phobias can be categorized as an intense type of anxiety, you can get treatment. This means that you don’t have to suffer in silence or pretend to be alright. Currently, there are two primary avenues health care providers can consider in treating tokophobia – medication and therapy.

Therapy of tokophobia

Some of the standard therapies that have shown to be effective at dealing with phobias and anxiety-related disorders include psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and exposure therapy. So if you want to go to therapy way, be sure to find a qualified therapist trained in your preferred treatment technique. Also, make sure that they have experience in providing maternal mental care or treating women.

Medication

Medications for anxiety disorders range from selective monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), 2 beta-blockers, and benzodiazepines. There isn’t a definite way to prescribe these medications so the treatment plans will be customized depending on your condition.

But, it’s advisable to visit your primary healthcare provider or psychiatrist to receive the prescription for these antidepressant medications since psychologists and social workers are not allowed to write prescriptions.

What causes tokophobia?
What causes tokophobia?

How to cope with tokophobia

Once you get treatment or therapy for tokophobia, it is still essential to know how to cope. Start by learning ideal ways to cope with the fear of childbirth. Also, discuss your concerns with an understanding and compassionate healthcare professional.

Although most women may not have a diagnosable childbirth phobia, some have concerns and anxieties about birthing. Discussing this matter with your midwife or OBGYN can help clear some of your fears. These professionals have experience because they talk to women who have undergone the same negative and positive experiences and have managed to give birth safely. During the discussions, you may also get helpful information about the recommended pain relief options allowed during delivery if the pain is the primary fear behind your tokophobia.

Suppose your childbirth fears are associated with something else like distrusting medical professionals, past sexual trauma, or a traumatic birth you had previously. In that case, you can rely on a mental health care professional to resolve these outstanding issues. With expert help, you can eliminate or reduce your tokophobia.


Tokophobia: It’s completely normal to feel nervous about motherhood. Tokophobia is a phobia of childbirth and pregnancy