What is tokophobia, and why do I need to know about it? I hear you asking. I asked myself the same question when I came across a post from a great blog I often read called “Navelgazing Midwife“. So I did some research and here is the result.
Tokophobia (also called tocophobia) is a psychological condition whereby the sufferer has a debilitating fear of pregnancy or childbirth. This is unrelated to their desire to have a baby. A lot of tokophobia sufferers desperately want a baby, but their fear causes them to make devastating life decisions, such as terminating pregnancies and ending loving relationships. There are two types of tokophobia – primary and secondary. Primary tokophobia is the absolute horror of childbirth or pregnancy, presenting well before pregnancy, often forming in adolescence after hearing or seeing particularly horrific birth stories. Secondary tokophobia is the terror of childbirth or pregnancy, caused by a number of factors including previous traumatic birth experience, malpractice, birth abuse or postnatal depression. It is believed that up to one in five fertile women suffer tokophobia.
So why don’t I know about it???
Midwives, obstetricians and other birth professionals – don’t you think it’s imperative that we need to know about this condition? Why isn’t it a core part of our training? Why don’t we have more knowledge and understanding of the how’s and why’s of tokophobia? Let’s educate ourselves on how we can help the numerous amount of women who must undeniably cross our paths. Don’t dismiss people who express this fear to you. After all, can’t tokophobic women fall pregnant just like everyone else?
Tokophobic women – I would firstly like to apologise for my lack of understanding prior to becoming aware of this condition. I am sure there have been women I have offended or hurt because of my ignorance. I will endeavor to learn more about how I can help you and be your voice in the often non-sympathetic hospital setting. Please know that you are not alone. As many as 20% of women feel the same as you. There ARE ways for you to become a parent to the children you so passionately long for. Whether that is through learning ways to abate your fear through psychotherapy and Calmbirth classes, or alternative birth arrangements, adoption or surrogacy. It IS possible. Please speak out. We will listen.
So let’s get talking people. Let us all be understanding of one another’s life journey. Let us all seek ways to help each other reach our goals. And today, as with everyday, let’s be especially loving, respectful and accepting of women with tokophobia.