midwifery_2018

Tokophobia – the fear of going into labour and giving birth

Researchers at the University of Hull are carrying out a pioneering study of women who suffer tokophobia – the fear of going into labour and giving birth.

Anxiety about giving birth is not unusual but for some women, the fear can be so overwhelming that it overshadows their pregnancy and affects daily functioning.

Care for sufferers is patchy but, in Hull and East Yorkshire, where there is an established perinatal mental health service, there is a recognised need for a consistent approach.

Academics at the University have been working together to explore the care and support available to these women – and to help address the gaps in service provision.

This pioneering work, which is at the forefront of tokophobia service provision and research in the UK, aims to ensure that women get the right support, and that their psychological and pregnancy needs are met.

Tokophobia can have debilitating effects on women and their families. Some women will avoid pregnancy, even though they might want to have children.

For those who do become pregnant, the condition can overshadow pregnancy and affect the choices they make for labour and birth.

This is why our experts are keen to work towards preventing tokophobia if possible – as well as providing effective treatment for women who suffer from this difficult condition.

Research suggests that between 2.5% and 14% of women are affected by tokophobia. But some researchers believe this figure could be as high as 22%.

Tokophobia – which literally means a phobia of childbirth – can be split into two types – primary and secondary.

Primary tokophobia occurs in women who have not given birth before. For these women, a fear of birth tends to come from traumatic experiences in their past – including sexual abuse.

It can also be linked to witnessing a difficult birth or listening to stories or watching programmes which portray birth as embarrassing or dangerous.

Women who suffer from secondary tokophobia, tend to have had a previous traumatic birth experience which has left them with a fear of giving birth again.

Research suggests that between 2.5% and 14% of women are affected by tokophobia. But some researchers believe this figure could be as high as 22%.

Women with tokophobia come from a wide variety of backgrounds. It is difficult to predict who might be affected.

Anxiety, insomnia, sleeplessness, eating disorders and antenatal depression or increased risk of postnatal depression, have all been identified as consequences of tokophobia.

Some women with tokophobia may have a less satisfying bond with their babies. And a difficult experience of birth can make women more afraid of birth if they become pregnant again.

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