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What is Tokophobia? How Can It Be Cured or Treated?

Table of Contents

What Is Tokophobia

Table of Contents

Most women’s lives are adversely affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Even though it can be a really happy moment, it can also be stressful and worrying. During labor, women frequently worry about both the expected discomfort and complications.

Pregnancy seems like a beautiful journey for most of us. But is creating life as smooth as people make it to be? Those nine months come with a bag full of disorders, semi-permanent body changes, mood swings, and harrowing childbirth experiences that are often brushed away as “adventurous”.

Tokophobia is just one of the many pregnancy-related mental health disorders that affect 6% to 10% of pregnant women. Let us take you through the definition, causes, symptoms, and treatment of Tokophobia so that you or someone you know can benefit.

Definition of Tokophobia

What is Tokophobia? Tokophobia is the dread of being pregnant and giving birth. Women who suffer from this phobia often refrain from getting pregnant or giving birth because of their pathological fear of it.

Despite wanting children, this fear may cause women to delay getting pregnant or decide to have a Caesarean section instead of giving birth naturally. Tokophobia can affect both women who haven’t ever given birth to a child and women who have previously gone through traumatic birth experiences.

Symptoms of Tokophobia

Tokophobia is a kind of anxiety condition in which the afflicted experience excessive, illogical fear of a particular thing or circumstance. Tokophobia can cause nightmares, panic episodes, disturbed sleep, and avoidance behaviors. Additional signs could be:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme apprehension of maternity mortality, stillbirth, or birth abnormalities
  • Dreading pregnancy and childbirth
  • Insisting a Caesarean section

This apprehension typically centers on worries around pregnancy, childbirth, medical care, decision-making, resources, and parental capacity.

Types of Tokophobia

Numerous theories have been put forth by researchers to explain how tokophobia came to exist. Some of these include learning about other women’s traumatic accounts of childbirth, being concerned about ineffective pain treatment, and already having psychiatric problems like anxiety and depression.

Tokophobia has two distinct forms:

  • Primary Tokophobia

Women who have never given birth commonly develop primary tokophobia. It might start in youth, but it can also happen after a woman has given birth. Women who have experienced sexual assault or rape may also experience it. Medical examinations performed by doctors throughout pregnancy and labor can also bring on memories of the first shock.

  • Secondary Tokophobia

Women who have previously given birth and experienced pregnancy often develop secondary tokophobia. It frequently follows difficult labor and delivery. However, it can also happen to women who gave birth normally and without stress, as well as to those who had miscarriages, stillbirths, pregnancy terminations, or unsuccessful reproductive therapies.

What Causes Tokophobia?

Tokophobia may develop as a result of various reasons such as:

  • Fear for the infant’s survival
  • Mistrust of medical professionals
  • Fear of pregnancy-related problems, including hypertension and death
  • Fearing pain
  • Fear of privacy, loss of control, and the unknown
  • Having a background of anxiety, depression, or sexual abuse as a youngster
  • Hearing terrible birth experiences from friends or on social media about 
  • Hormone changes that make anxiety management more difficult
  • Psychological and social variables, such as early pregnancy, poverty, or a lack of social support
  • Uncertainty regarding the birth and labor processes

Prevalence of Tokophobia

It is entirely normal to be afraid of getting pregnant and giving birth. A certain amount of dread might be advantageous in some ways since it encourages women to seek out maternal care and guidance to deal with their worries.

As many as 80% of pregnant women have some level of anxiety and concern about things like pain, health, and safety during labor, making birthing anxiety quite prevalent. Although these fears are common, most women can manage them by studying more about the labor and delivery procedure, speaking with other women, and seeking advice from their maternity care professionals.

Yet, in rare cases, this dread can grow so intense and crippling that it may be labeled as tokophobia. The prevalence of tokophobia is unknown. Although there is evidence that as many as 20% to 25% of women may have severe and incapacitating symptoms of childbirth-related anxieties, some research suggests that rates fall between 2% and 15%.

Is Tokophobia Similar to PTSD?

Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is thought to affect 3% of new mothers.  Women in high-risk groups have an increase in this rate. Flashbacks increased alertness, and dreams involving the event are some signs of postpartum PTSD.

After a difficult delivery, women may receive a secondary tokophobia diagnosis when, in reality, they are suffering from PTSD symptoms. Sometimes misdiagnosed with postnatal PTSD or tokophobia when in reality they are suffering from postpartum depression.  To ensure efficient therapy, it is important to differentiate between these diagnoses.

Treating Tokophobia

A mental health expert can assist in addressing some of the potential root causes of the problem, such as pre-existing depression or anxiety. To help women feel that their concerns about the birth process are appropriately addressed, maternal healthcare providers can provide reassurance, information, and proper medical treatment.

Here’s how women can address Tokophobia:

  • Social Support Groups

Many women get solace in simply knowing that someone can assist them. It increases their confidence in their abilities and even lowers the rate of elective c-sections.

Effective support can be provided one-on-one or in a group setting. The people that women already know, including family members or friends, frequently offer this kind of support, but it can also come from obstetricians, psychologists, midwives, or counselors.

It has also been proven that a happy birth experience might lessen labor anxiety. According to one study, women who felt in control of their bodies and were knowledgeable about the course of labor were less afraid of the process.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy can both be successful in treating tokophobia. Due to its short duration and emphasis on specific problems, CBT could be the go-to option for therapists treating Tokophobia.

One study compared the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy delivered online vs traditional care. Even while the researchers discovered that both methods reduced fear, those who underwent CBT had more of a decrease in symptoms at one year postpartum. The researchers hypothesized that the low acceptance of this treatment technique was reflected by the fact that very few women finished the CBT therapy modules.

  • Medications

Medications can also be used to treat underlying anxiety, depression, or other mental problems, either by themselves or in combination with other forms of therapy. A multidisciplinary strategy is used to treat tokophobia, including obstetric and psychological care.

How to Deal With Tokophobia

You can make efforts to receive the support you need if you believe that a severe fear of labor and pregnancy may be negatively affecting your life. Do not let Tokophobia get the better of you. Try these methods to deal with it:

  • Discuss Your Feelings

It’s normal to experience some kind of nervousness, and your doctor or midwife may be able to reassure you. Talking to dependable family members or friends might also go a long way in easing fear in you. Just knowing that there are others available to support you and empathize with your anxieties, is enough to lessen your fears.

  • Create a Birth Plan

Discuss your wants and needs with your doctor, including the alternatives available to you for pain relief and childbirth. Making a birth plan and selecting your delivery method can give you a sense of empowerment and control.

  • Avoid Traumatic Childbirth Stories

People may be telling their stories of childbirth to give you support, all well-meaningly. But they can induce Tokophobia in you. Instead, look for reliable medical information on delivery and labor. Also, feel free to stop anyone from giving you gruesome details of their birth experience.

  • Attend a Prenatal Class

The best prenatal classes will educate you and your partner about what to expect during labor and delivery. Knowing what happens during the end days of your pregnancy and learning how to handle the pain might make you feel more confident.

  • Get in Touch With a Therapist

Ask your physician to recommend you to a psychologist, counselor, psychiatrist, or another mental health professional if your fear is negatively affecting your life. These professionals can provide you with guidance and support that others cannot provide.

A Final Word

Although tokophobia is uncommon, it can significantly affect a woman’s life and ability to function. Even if they wish to have children, people who have this intense fear of delivery may avoid getting pregnant. Tokophobia may also stem from other fears such as

  • Fear of pain: Algophobia
  • Fear of being touched: Haphephobia
  • Fear of doctors: Iatrophobia
  • Fear of gaining weight: Obesophobia
  • Fear of children: Pedophobia
  • Fear of dying: Thanatophobia
  • Fear of needles: Trypanophobia

To manage symptoms, have a healthy pregnancy, and have a great birth experience, women may have worries related to pregnancy and labor that may be addressed with the right support and care. If you are worried that you might be exhibiting tokophobia symptoms, be sure to consult your doctor.

FAQs: What is Tokophobia? How Can It Be Cured or Treated?

1. Is tokophobia a mental illness?

Yes, tokophobia is a mental health condition that women go through. It is a fear of childbirth that often leads to anxiety and depression and can be treated with the help of support groups, CBT, and medications.

2. What causes tokophobia?

Unresolved trauma caused by rape or abuse can cause Tokophobia in women. These kinds of traumatic experiences can induce a sense of shame about being pregnant leading to anxiety and depression. The feeling of being pressurized for an uncomplicated vaginal birth is also a cause of Tokophobia.

3. Can men have Tokophobia?

Yes, tokophobia can affect men as much as it affects women. Even though research on tokophobia in men is very limited, some have found that men fear the safety and health of their partner and child.

4. How is Tokophobia diagnosed?

It can be diagnosed by mental health therapists such as licensed clinical social workers, psychiatrists, or psychologists. In some cases, even your OB-GYN can diagnose it based on the symptoms you report.

Sources :

On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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