It’s unsurprising that the vast majority of first-time mothers are nervous or anxious about giving birth. The many factors involved in a safe and positive childbirth may make many women feel like it is out of their control. For others, it is the tales of difficult births from friends and family, or what they read in the news.
Yet for some women these understandable fears can become genuinely crippling, and develop into a phobia of childbirth.
Known as tokophobia, a pathological fear of pregnancy can cause women significant distress and even lead to avoidance of childbirth. It is thought to affect between 3 and 14% of women, and in some cases may lead to women avoiding pregnancy completely. Often women will opt for a Caesarean section in order to avoid what they think will be a harrowing vaginal birth. Famous actress Helen Mirren previously said this was the reasons she decided to not have any children.
Symptoms of the condition may include anxiety, insomnia, sleeplessness, eating disorders, antenatal depression as well as a potential increased risk of postnatal depression. The health service in the UK is even beginning to fund alternative therapies such as yoga, massage, and hypnotherapy in a bid to help women with these morbid fears about giving birth.
“Miranda” told the Metro UK that looking at images of childbirth leave her with very negative emotions, acting as a trigger for feelings of anxiety.
“I realised in my early 20s. I started finding that I couldn’t stomach watching childbirth scenes on TV. ‘I’d come over hot and clammy and feel a deep sense of unease in my stomach.”
“Melissa” also spoke of her need to avoid certain television programmes and films. “I have an aversion to seeing childbirth, and a reluctance to talk about it. I’m triggered by just the image of a woman in labour, even if I know it’s staged.”
Studies from Norway, Finland and Australia suggest that different types of counselling approaches might be helpful for some women, such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
Did you have a fear of childbirth while you were pregnant? Or did you have a traumatic childbirth experience? Share your story with us HERE.