Before the first days with the baby comes to the pains of childbirth. Many women develop downright anxiety at the thought of childbirth. These fears vary from normal nervousness to full-blown tokophobia. However, fear of childbirth can be combated.
In this article, you’ll learn how.
Table of contents
What Is Tokophobia?
Many expectant mothers know it: the anticipation of the positive pregnancy test, the huge anticipation of the baby, but also the great nervousness as soon as thinking about the birth.
A little fear of birth is perfectly normal, especially with the first child. But what if the ordinary nervousness turns into a real panic? Find out how tokophobia – the extreme fruit before pregnancy and birth.
It develops and why some women suffer from it. And discover how to best prepare yourself for the natural birth of your baby and what measures you can take to conquer your own fear of childbirth.
The technical term tokophobia describes the pathological fear of pregnancy, but it can also refer only to the fear of childbirth. As a recognized anxiety disorder, tokophobia is not comparable to more harmless forms of nervousness that many women experience.
According to a British study, 13% of all current childless or non-pregnant women reported postponing or completely suppressing their desire to have children due to anxiety.
Tokophobia, which is not related to the pregnancy itself but is primarily a fear of childbirth, leads primarily to planned C-sections. The same study from the United Kingdom found that 7% of all cesarean sections occur only because natural birth is associated with panic for the expectant mother.
In exceptional cases, pregnancy phobia can even lead to the expectant mother deciding to terminate the pregnancy. Even if there is a desire to have a child, the fear prevails.
Experts distinguish between two different types of tokophobia:
- Primary phobia: a fear developed without experience, often lasting a lifetime.
- The secondary phobia: A fear that only arises as a result of an already experienced, traumatic pregnancy and/or birth.
What Causes The Primary Fear Of Birth And Pregnancy?
Primary fear of birth and pregnancy, which occurs for no specific reason and lasts a lifetime, can have a variety of causes. Experts believe that this form of tokophobia can be passed down from mothers to their daughters, among other causes.
Women who suffer from the primary anxiety disorder around pregnancy mainly give the following reasons for it:
- Fear of physical change.
- Fear of pain during delivery.
- Fear of raising a child with disabilities.
- Fear of failing as a mother.
- Fear of bad treatment by the doctor.
The last item is often accompanied by another anxiety disorder, iatrophobia. This is the fear of doctors, hospitals, medical treatments & co.
What Causes The Secondary Fear Of Birth And Pregnancy?
The secondary type of anxiety disorder has a very specific reason and therefore usually occurs in women who have already given birth to a child and did not suffer from anxiety before the first pregnancy. Rather, a problem occurred during pregnancy or childbirth, which has a negative impact on the psyche.
Traumatic experiences that can trigger pregnancy phobia include:
- Postnatal depression with the first child.
- Birth complications.
- Unplanned emergency cesarean section.
Even if you have been trying to have a baby for a long time and your pregnancies have ended in miscarriage every time so far, there is a risk that you will develop severe anxiety about another pregnancy.
In other cases, the secondary fear can also be caused by an experience from childhood. For example, if you were present at a home birth as a child or saw birth on video at a very young age, these images can become negatively imprinted in your memory.
Furthermore, abuse in childhood can promote a whole range of anxiety disorders, including tokophobia.
Tokophobia And The Desire To Have Children: Becoming A Mom Despite Fear?
Unfortunately, pregnancy phobia is still a taboo subject. Even medical studies have only recently begun to deal with the subject. Whether your fear of childbirth is inexplicable to you or a result of a bad experience in the past, there are ways and means today how you can confront the fear.
After all, fear should definitely not stop you from giving up on having a family.
Professional Help With The Fear Of Childbirth
Depending on the cause and extent of the phobia, there are different ways to confront the fear of birth and pregnancy. If the fear is already present in you when you are not yet pregnant, you should seek help from a psychologist. The cause of your tokophobia will be investigated in detail during a joint discussion and possible therapy.
If your fear of childbirth develops during pregnancy, you can talk to your gynecologist or midwife. Especially the latter are happy to take time for questions and concerns about childbirth.
For many women, these conversations, together with regular relaxation exercises and a good childbirth preparation course, already bring about a significant reduction in anxiety. Psychotherapy is only necessary in rare, severe cases.
5 Simple Tips To Prepare For An Anxiety-free Birth
Whether tokophobia or typical nervousness, every pregnant woman should prepare extensively for the delivery of the baby to alleviate her own fears.
1. Let a midwife or a childbirth preparation course explain to you all the options for delivery as well as common complications. Knowledge eases the fear of childbirth.
2. Talk openly and confidentially with friends and female relatives about your birth experiences.
3. Choose a hospital or birth center where you feel comfortable and which has a calm, relaxed atmosphere.
4. Talk to your partner about what you expect from him or her during the birth. Your mother, sister, or best friend may also come with you to the delivery room if their presence reassures you.
5. If you had a negative experience during childbirth with your first child, do not suppress these thoughts, but talk openly with your gynecologist, a midwife or even a psychologist. This will help you overcome your fears about the birth of your next baby ahead of time.
Natural Birth VS. Cesarean Section: Making Decisions Out Of Fear?
It is natural childbirth in particular that causes a great deal of anxiety for a large number of women. Is my body up for the task? How severe will the pain be? What if something goes wrong during the delivery?
For this reason, some women decide in advance and without medical necessity to have a planned cesarean section in order to avoid the fear of giving birth naturally.
In principle, you can of course decide for yourself how you want to bring your baby into the world. However, it is often underestimated what a major intervention a cesarean section is and that it also has some disadvantages.
The procedure carries the usual risks of any operation and the healing phase takes much more time than a natural birth requires. In the first days with the newborn baby, this can add to the demands on your body.
There are also women who, for a variety of reasons, are very afraid of a C-section and desperately want to experience a natural birth. These fears usually come from a general fear of surgery and have only limited to do with a pregnancy-specific phobia.
Some women also fear that the bond with their baby will be negatively affected because of the C-section. You don’t have to worry about that. The mother-baby bond, or bonding, is possible with slight delays even during a cesarean section.
In addition, the short time you are cared for by the surgical team is a great opportunity for dad to have first physical contact with your baby. Even if you prefer natural birth, a C-section is usually a positive experience in this day and age.
Whether a natural birth or a C-section is the right choice for you is up to you. However, you should not make the decision solely on the basis of your fear of childbirth, but rather be informed and educated about both options.
And after nine months of pregnancy, the baby often decides for itself how it wants to be born. You must also be prepared for this spontaneous change of plan.
Enjoy Your Pregnancy: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Birth
Pregnancy should be the most beautiful, exciting time in the life of every woman. And even if things like nausea or nervousness are also part of this stage, panic should never arise.
Talk openly about all your worries and choose exactly the environment for the delivery in which you feel comfortable. Seeking professional help is always an option that you should not be ashamed of. On the contrary, getting rid of your fears is the first step towards a close bond with your child!