News |  16th Mar 2022

Tokophobia and the relationship with elective caesarean sections

Tokophobia is "an unreasoning dread of pregnancy or childbirth" which, without support, can be incredibly debilitating. It is important that women, and men reach out for support. There are many therapists throughout the UK who specialise in this area.

Avoidance behaviours characteristic of phobic states may be experienced. Antenatal appointments may be missed, engaging with conversation about the pregnancy or baby may be avoided, and preparation for birth or motherhood avoided because of feelings of disgust or fear of the process. It may be difficult to talk to their partner or family about and this which may, in turn, cause feelings of isolation.

Levels of fear can fluctuate during pregnancy and usually increase as birth becomes imminent.

Fear can juxtapose a balance of risk avoidance and risk taking, meaning that some women will mitigate their risk by having more medical interventions and choosing caesarean section. Fearful partners may also influence birth choices. Nevertheless, fear may not resolve and women may still experience birth trauma or low birth satisfaction if adequate support is not perceived or if they have a negative encounter with a health care professional.

A severe fear of childbirth is associated with lower birth satisfaction, negative birth experiences and post-partum traumatic stress disorder. Infant bonding issues may be experienced. Fear of childbirth may also be passed on through generations from mother to daughter, affecting self-efficacy in the ability to give birth.

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