Tocophobia: the fear of pregnancy and childbirth

Who I am
Marie-Ange Demory
Author and references

The time of delivery

Many beautiful images concerning the moment of birth, unique and magical

Read also: How to overcome the fear of childbirth

Inborn or senseless fears?
As he has repeatedly expressed on blogs, forums and paper magazines, phobias represent real unjustified fears, which can lead to avoidance of situations in which we can find ourselves exposed to what we fear. In particular, different phobias are distinguished according to the object of their own fears: agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), claustrophobia, social phobia, animal phobia (arachnophobia, fear of dogs, birds, etc.), sexual phobias. Little known is instead the tocophobia, or the fear of pregnancy, and in particular of childbirth (Read).

ALSO READ: Fear of childbirth, advice to deal with it

Tocophobia, this unknown ...

It is a fear that occurs when a subject avoids pregnancy. The situation may be overlooked and may not come to the doctor's attention. In particular, for this type of phobia it is more difficult to apply the cognitive-behavioral therapy of gradual exposure to the phobic stimulus, because either you are pregnant or not. That is where the thorny issue lies. The difference from a normal anxiety at the thought of delivery (very common, especially in the third trimester) is given by the fact that the fear is extreme and dominates the mind to the point that it can be the main reason and the triggering cause that makes it possible to avoid a pregnancy, thus giving up having a desired child. Extremely: some women practice one contraception rigid, others may even require permanent sterilization.

Who is at risk?
The patients most at risk are those who have had negative childbirth experiences, especially if there have been invasive obstetric maneuvers (Read), for example manual aftercare or curettage without anesthesia, a particularly prolonged and difficult labor, or an emergency caesarean section in dramatic conditions (for example due to placental abruption). In other cases, the birth was regular, but perceived by the woman as a violence to her body, so much so as to lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, with consequences of post-partum depression. What if a woman is her first pregnancy? You may well suffer from tocophobia and require a caesarean section in order to avoid natural birth. However, it must be remembered that the Caesarean section is abdominal surgery (Read), and as such it is far more invasive and risky than vaginal delivery. The possibility of resorting to childbirth with analgesia, in a welcoming environment, must be a reason for reassurance.


The time of delivery

Many beautiful images concerning the moment of birth, unique and magical

How to cure this phobia?
It is important to act at the level of prevention, dedicating time to communication, and in particular to the experience of childbirth. In this sense, attending a preparation course can be useful in reducing anxiety, as well as yoga or relaxation courses, which focus the concentration on breathing. In certain cases, a short period of psychotherapy can be used to dissolve the inner conflicts related to the experience.

For more information:
J Cockburn, ME Pawson, Psychological challenges in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Edizioni Springer, 2007.


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