Tokophobia – Too Afraid To Have A Baby by A. Lauretta
(Link): Too Afraid to Have a Baby
- Tokophobia—a pathological dread of giving birth—might be causing some women to avoid pregnancy.
- ….Though there aren’t statistics in the United States for a pathological anxiety over pregnancy and childbirth—known as tokophobia— (Link): studies in Australia and Britain have found that 6 percent of pregnant women report a disabling fear of having babies, while 13 percent of women who are not yet pregnant are afraid enough to postpone or avoid pregnancy altogether.
- ….Pregnancy and childbirth do come with feelings of anxiety, of course: hopes that the mother and child will be safe and healthy, that there will be little to no complications during childbirth, that the first days and months at home will go smoothly.
- So when do common pregnancy jitters cross the line into a clinical phobia? And, if the phobia is as prevalent as some research suggests, why isn’t it more widely recognized? The answer may have to do with the difficulty of being open about not looking forward to something that most people consider a miracle—especially when more than six million women in the U.S. alone have problems getting or staying pregnant and may dream of having children.
- …Tokophobia is categorized in two forms: primary and secondary. The former can be understood through the lens of Mirren’s fear—often happening at a young age—when seeing disturbing images of birth or even resulting from sexual assault. The latter is often described similarly to post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting from a traumatic past birth experience.
A third form that is not recognized medically—known as social tokophobia—was conceived by Brian Salmon, a doula and lactation consultant. “Instead of it being true to secondary tokophobia, it is social—because people suck,” says Salmon. “They tell you the worst stories about their pregnancy, about their breastfeeding; all of these things.”
Salmon estimates he works with roughly 300 couples of various sexual orientations every month, and of those at least one in 10 have a severe fear of birth. “What happens is other people’s stories get ingrained in your head and anticipation of the unknown kicks in,” he says. “Then people are just so tense, they are fighting every minute and aren’t sleeping, so they show up to their birth exhausted because they are working through their early labor and just anticipating that big one that is going to come wallop them.”
- … (Link): Studies show that women who already suffer from general anxiety would be predisposed to tokophobia.
There are not many women who openly discuss having tokophobia, though some have spoken out in media or online in recent years to share their stories or seek help. (Link): One woman on Reddit, in a channel devoted to people who don’t want children, notes that her tokophobia was so severe she was afraid of having sex with her significant other for fear of becoming pregnant, even when protection was used. “I know it’s silly that I’m this afraid,” she writes, “but I can’t help it.”
- …Herrera suggests this “wall” is one reason women don’t seek psychological help when experiencing symptoms of tokophobia. Another reason she discusses is the shame women may potentially feel. Pregnancy and childbirth are often seen as the happiest time of a woman’s life.
- Other than the acknowledgment of postpartum depression and anxiety, there’s a general assumption—in Western cultures, at least—that women are supposed to be joyous.
- So if the idea of being pregnant disgusts a woman, it is only natural to be afraid of being stigmatized, Herrera says. And when a phobia is already present, these feelings of shame will only exacerbate fears.