What Does Tokophobia Mean? Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Most women consider pregnancy as one of the happiest moment in their life cycle. Giving birth to a new life is victorious moment in a mother’s life. But at the same time it is not uncommon for the pregnant woman to entail some amount of anxiety from challenging job of motherhood. Fear and anxiety regarding childbirth to certain degree is healthy as it prepares the woman for childbirth. However, when this fear becomes terrifying and disabling for the woman physically as well as emotionally, it gives rise to a condition called tokophobia.

In other words tokophobia is a term used when a woman is intensely fearful and anxious of pregnancy or childbirth. This anxiety disorder is characterized by severe and irrational fear of childbirth and pregnancy, palpitation, shortness of breath, trembling. There is a strong desire to get away from pregnancy. Most women suffering tocophobia prefer to be delivered through Cesarean section.

What Are The Causes Of Tokophobia?

Tokophobia as a psychological condition was first defined by Hofberg and Brockington in 2000. The word tokos in Greek means ‘childbirth’ and phobos means ‘fear’ hence tokophobia means ‘fear of childbirth’.

Tokophobia occurs in women when there is neurohormonal imbalance. Extreme fear and anxiety of childbirth and pregnancy are two key features. There are various factors that may precipitate tokophobia. Tokophobia is more common among women with obsessive compulsive trait.

  • Women who have heard of childbirth and labor pain. This may cause overwhelming fear.
  • Some woman who feel they may lose their privacy as they have to undergo frequent vaginal examination during pregnancy and at the time of labor. Such exposure may not be liked by them.
  • Women who have experienced sexual abuse or rape.
    Remembering flashback of such trauma can be one of the leading causes of tokophobia.
  • Some women may have seen or heard of traumatic experience of others during pregnancy and childbirth especially when they were young. This may cause insurmountable fear and anxiety of undergoing pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Fear that vaginal delivery may cause chronic incontinence of urine or laxity of vagina or prolapsed of uterus.
  • The threshold limit for pain in some women is very less. This may cause fear that they will not be able to bear the pain during the time of labor.
  • Women having low self esteem and lack of confidence. Depression and anxious nature can increase the risk of tokophobia.
  • Tokophobia is possible in woman who have previously experienced trauma during her vaginal delivery, or had miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Young age of pregnant woman, highly educated women, women living in high socioeconomic state, smoking, single mothers are more likely to suffer from tokophobia.

Signs And Symptoms Of Tokophobia

Tokophobia can be primary or secondary. In primary tokophobia the woman has not become pregnant any time. In secondary tokophobia the woman has undergone pregnancy at least once. But there may be bad experience such as vaginal trauma during delivery, or a miscarriage etc. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Woman becomes fearful and panicky even when she thinks or talks about pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Intense anxiety, fear and depression during pregnancy.
  • Refuses to undergo labor until she is been guaranteed cesarean section.
  • Refuses to become pregnant but at the same time has strong inclination to become pregnant.
  • Insomnia and sleeplessness.
  • Increased use of contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. Woman takes multiple contraceptives during intercourse as there is fear of getting pregnant.
  • Woman has fear that her life will be in danger if she undergoes vaginal delivery or there is fear of stillbirth and birth defects.

How To Deal With Tokophobia?

Woman suffering from tokophobia must seek support and treatment from a health care practitioner. This condition needs multidisciplinary approach. An obstetrician and psychiatrist are able in treating the condition. One of the most important criteria is to dispel all false believes and understanding the woman has regarding pregnancy and childbirth. She has to be reassured that all measures will be taken care of during her pregnancy and childbirth to prevent any discomfort for her.

A woman suffering from psychological disorder should take treatment from psychiatrist for her mental illness. Counseling will provide confidence in woman for giving birth to the child. Treatment such as self hypnosis and mindfulness therapies are beneficial. Some women still prefer a planned cesarean section.