Tokophobia (fear of giving birth)

Many mums-to-be will talk about feeling worried or anxious around giving birth but for around 13% this fear becomes overwhelming. Tokophobia is the name given to an extreme fear of childbirth that can sometimes make you want to end the pregnancy or avoid becoming pregnant altogether.

Tokophobia is more common and intense for first time mothers and is known as primary tokophobia. Secondary tokophobia is where a previous traumatic labour or baby loss can result in subsequent fear.

What causes tokophobia

Tokophobia may be caused by a number of factors such as:

  • Hormonal changes

  • Hearing stories of traumatic births from friends or family

  • An existing anxiety disorder

  • Psychological factors such as low self-esteem or previous trauma

  • Fears relating to perceived loss of control or lack of pain relief

Symptoms can include:

  • Sleep problems

  • Panic

  • Anxiety

  • Crying episodes

  • Paranoia

  • A desire for a caesarean section due to fear of vaginal delivery

Getting help

There are effective treatments for tokophobia such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), psychotherapy and medication.

A good support network around you from partners, family and friends can also really help. Attending antenatal or hypnobirthing classes and making a wellbeing plan can help you to feel more prepared and in control.

Some hospitals have specialist perinatal mental health midwives who may be able to offer you specialist support. Talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor who will be able to discuss your options for birth and help you get the support you need.


Resources to support your mental health and emotional wellbeing

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