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Tokophobia - Fear of Childbirth

Forgive me, my Empowered friends. I felt this post was important to share here lest someone search "tokophobia" and actually stumble upon a different view than the medical belief... that I believe it is a wholesale cultural brainwashing.

And, for the women with tokophobia... TURN THE TV OFF! Birth shows on tv are part and parcel of the tokophobia phenomenon! It isn't making up for the lack of tribal birthing we once experienced, it is edited and dramatized and is the epitome of the worst that birth can be in this culture.

A woman writes of her fear of birth (she actually called it BIRTH PHOBIA) and her joining a list I am on. She says, after a brief time on the list, that she is more afraid than ever... and that surprises her. This is my response:

What is it about birth that scares you? Pain? Possible death? A disabled/deformed child? The cost in raising them? That you will be a wimp? That you won't be able to make any decisions about what happens to you? That you will be touched in ways you don't want to be touched?
And let's move now to... what is it in particular about this group's posts that are making those fears worse?

I encourage seeing things in context. If you were sitting on a regular old pregnancy board, THEN I would see why you might be terrified - women having vaginal exams at the whim of the doctor or midwife, the morphine at 2 cm dilated, the 8 inch needle in the spine that numbs mom from nipples down, cuts to the vagina as a regular course of events, pulling the baby out with a vacuum or forceps... or the ever-gory, but popular cesarean descriptions.

Women here speak of what happened to them and how they intend to not allow that to happen to them again. THAT is empowerment. You, I suspect, are here like many not-yet-pregnant or newly-pregnant-for-the-first-time women who don't want the Birth Story From Hell to tell at baby showers, but a birth that makes your knees weak with pride and tears spring to your eyeballs as you remember your strength, your toughness, your amazing ability to allow your body to work its miracle - with or without your conscious help.

This group is not therapy, but it is therapeutic. Listening in is good and many, especially pregnant and nursing mamas (the majority here, by far) do not or cannot listen to horror stories over and over, but if you have specifics, by all means, name them and let's shine the light on them so we can dispell them or nod and say, "ayup, that one's for real." We just ask that you put something in the subject line that denotes, for example: "SPOILER - newborn fears" or "SPOILER - my vagina" so women can make a choice to read or skip.

Listening behind the words is important, too. A woman writing about the 23 hour labor that was exhausting and how she pushed for 4 hours and how her veins popped out of her neck and the baby mooshed out of her and it was SUCH a humongous sensation she couldn't believe a baby could come out of her ass, but that the baby smells amazing! that her life as it is now is better than she ever imagined! that her love for her partner, her child, and her Self is beyond belief in its enormity. She isn't telling a horror story. She is telling HER love story. She speaks her Truth and how wonderful she is that she watched the wall of fire and walked through it, even though it was hard and painful and long. She did it!

And that doesn't include, of course, the stories you haven't read yet of women who have delicious, yummy, juicy births that include lovemaking, orgasms, slow-gentle sliding out of babies from vaginas and the transformation those births inspire.

Or the women who make the decision (or the baby that makes the decision) to transfer to the hospital and who might end up with medications, an epidural, an episiotomy, forceps or a cesarean... and how beautiful that birth was, too... because she *knew*... she knew what to do because of these women around us who have shared what they would do differently if they had a chance to do it all again.

For a woman with tokophobia, I hope you stay around. Name your fears and remind yourself to remain open to the *tone* of the birth stories, the rememberence that many women ONLY type on the Net when they have difficulties or pain and need help, and that you will find a place of healing in your heart. Enough to someday have a baby if you want to.

If we all lived in tribes. No one would be afraid of birth. Afraid of lions and bears, sure, but birth? It would be as natural as going to the river for water. Did they see mothers and babies die and mourn over it? Sure they did, but, they also knew more acutely than we tend to that death is as sure as birth; by being conceived, we all agree to die.

I look forward to this dialogue. And one last note. You are sooooooooo not alone in your fears. It isn't *so* common here (or at least the fears are named differently [or named at all]), but I learned the word "tokophobia" recently and how whole studies are being done on it. Very, very hard for me, a midwife, to grasp that the cultural indoctrination of the horrors of how birth is in today's society and how it is accepted and now, studies and doctors are deciding that the cure for tokophobia is a scheduled cesarean instead of the humanization of birth.

So much work to do... so very much.

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Reader Comments (86)

I googled tokophobia and found your site. I am 32 y/o and am having anxiety attacks just thinking of becoming pregnant. I would like to write in more detail, but first want to be sure that your site is active and responses are forthcoming.
Please help! Thanks, K

July 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKDogg


If you click the title of the blog up at the top, you will get to today's posts (I'm a tad prolific lately). I would love to explore this with you and others... let's talk!

Shall I write another post about it?

July 3, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

So glad someone has addressed this. I realize that I am not alone in my digust and dread of childbirth. What's weird is that I love babies and children but am paralyzed with fear when considering having a child of my own naturally. Even stranger, I am a registered nurse. I've cared for burn patients, people with their faces blown off, and people half-eaten by flesh-eating bacteria. These patients have never inspired the anxiety that I feel when I've assisted with natural childbirth. The screaming, defecation
tissue tearing, placenta, and gore is nothing less than gruesome to me. I'm puzzled by other nurses' remarks of the "beautiful experience" that childbirth is when I've helped these exhausted women care for their ravaged bodies and squalling infants. I am struck by how primitive, undignified, and unevolved the experience is and have wondered how any woman goes through the experience more than once without demanding a c-section the next time around. Time is running out for me as I'm in my early 30s now. My husband has been hinting for a while that he wants to start soon. The panic has set in at times and the worry that I'll never have enough chutzpah weighs relentlessly on my mind.....Thanks for addressing this, S

December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I googled tokophobia and found your site as well. I so totally understand the feelings expressed by anonymous. My mother is a pediatric nurse, and while I am not a medical professional, I completely understand the concerns anonymous mentions in her post. I am now 45, and it's basically too late for me to have a child (I'm single so that's also a problem with my personal values system.) Tokophobia is a real disorder, and I didn't get it from watching baby stories on TV. Tokophobia has changed my life. I left the love of my life rather than have a child for him--he never knew that was the reason--and I have spent a lifetime telling people I don't like children just to get them off my back. If my family knew I was tokophobic I would be run out of town on the rails--it would never have been tolerated. But there has never been anything about birth that doesn't either gross me out to the max or appear to be really horrendous for the body. I would never put myself through childbirth willingly. Gross! So, even though I always wanted a child, and a husband, and a home, etc., I found a way to hide the tokophobia and it changed my life. No amount of reading a natural birth board is going to cure tokophobia. There might be some sort of treatment for it, but women with tokophobia would be better served to be accepted as they are. There are tons of us out here, believe me.

February 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMyExperience

Phew, I am so relieved to find that i'm not the only one. I am so fed up with people saying 'its ok and its not as bad as you think'. They dont have the same feelings as I do. I sweat and feel faint when i think of giving birth and I am avoiding it at every cost. I have felt like this since I was a child. I hate the way in which 'society' makes women feel that they must have a baby....and I too do not want to grow old and be left childless....but I just cannot bring myself to do it...it never feels right. My biggest fear is being ripped open (my hands have just gone soaking wet saying this). For years I have had problems having sex, I bleed, tear and tense up...its a whole horrid package. I wish either way I could just make a decision to either never have kids or to just get it out the way and do it. What on earth can I do?

March 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I want lots and lots of children one day but childbirth scares me to death. Birthing books , birthing programs , even fictionalized birth scares me. I start crying and then have a panic attack. It's just so scary. I'd love to be pregnant and have my child growing inside me, being a part of me. But the thought of being in tremendous pain for hours and hours and then feeling my vagina rip open. [I mean imagine horror movies when people are stabbed. I mean oh my goodness! It's like the same thing because it's skin being torn apart in some way and it's no small paper cut] And then I have white coat syndrome but if I have a homebirth I can't have an epidural. Oh dear lord Jesus it scares me to death. and then like i don't want people touching and looking at my vagina, which is already ugly and will look even more ugly as a baby human being slowly pulls it apart. And labor seems so scarry. Though I love children all the time, I hate children when this thought comes about. I feel like no one cares about me, the one who is pain , worry , and terrified. Everyone just thinks of this stupid baby that doesn't care anything about whats going on because it doesn't know anything.

And yes tokophobia is real. I have had this fear since I was about 3 years old, before I even knew that "phobia" it's self was a word. But I also have a panic/anxiety disorder and that may be the base of it. But the fear I feel is real.

March 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Me too. I asked for a caesarean section to avoid a vaginal birth. I was abused as a child. I am a midwife and I know about birth - the wonderful peaceful ones, the empowering ones, the awful disempowering medicalised ones. I know that the hormones which I would have released in labour - those of fear and terror - would have stopped the oxytocin, stopped the labour and forced me to endure what I feared the most. I dreamed of faceless masked men examining me and cutting me and not stopping when i asked them to. I punched my swollen belly and cried at being taken over by this alien invader. I knew I was going to find it tough enough becoming a mother without haveing to endure a traumatic birth and the subsequent flashbacks. I was lucky. I had a very sympathetic consultant and a caesarean on request. My birth was controlled, quiet, non sexual and I am a proud mummy who loves my son. Thank God - it could have been so different.

March 16, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlittle.red.one

When I began to research this condition seven years ago I found very little (other than that my phobia had a name!) My consultants/doctors/midwives looked at me blankly when I even mentioned the word. I am a writer, so I wrote a book about it (hence the research today) and I am thrilled to see that we are all speaking up for ourselves now. My problem is this: because my first baby was in the most incredible contortionist's position I was told "Caesarean, or you could kill one or both of you" which was fine by me. Having written this as the ending, I feel I am copping out on you fellow tokophobics. I wanted to write a book that I felt would entertain but also HELP women with tokophobia. Raising it's profile is one thing, but how shall I end the book? Gory details in full (my second child was pretty much this!) with no punches pulled, a dream birth, or something else? I am more certain than ever that this story should be told on behalf of everyone who is ever told "Oh, it's not that bad and you soon forget pain anyway!" Any comments gratefully received, this is a genuine post. Well done to the founder of this site.
Mayesy x

April 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMayesy

Well, I just Googled the word too and found this page. Not being 'diagnosed' with tokophobia, but that's what I have I am sure. Started with being fearful of morning sickness (I have a big phobia of being sick and have had this since a child) ... and gradually, oh so gradually extended to being fearful of pregnancy (health issues, fear of doctors, fear of things going wrong - eg miscarriage) and the birth - well - need I say more. I think of this fear now as a curse, which affected my mental and physical health all through my 30s. Having reached 40 a year or two ago, the pressure suddenly dropped since I always felt this was the age by which I 'should' have had a child. I'm married with a husband who has never pressured me and have parents and in-laws that have never pressurised me either. But tho' they've never 'said' anything, I know how much a child/grandchild would have meant to them all and that makes me feel so mean and selfish. The odd thing is that my sisters have not had children, and neither has my husband's brother. Both of my sisters have a similar fear to mine and I only found out about this in the last couple of years. Only my brother, who emigrated to North America, has 2 kids and my poor parents rarely get to see them. Although reaching 40 gave me a certain amount of liberation, occasionally (and maybe fuelled by PMT) I get very sad about the fact I almost certainly won't have children now. What set if off today was that my mother in law said she was thinking of selling off her teddy bear collection. It got me thinking that she would probably have given some of them to any grandchildren she had ... and I feel so sad just now that I've reached the point of no return. I will probably feel better tomorrow (I have 2 dogs whom I adore!), but it's a truly wretched (and unfair!) fear for any woman to have and when I first Googled the phobia about 4/5 years ago, I could find nothing on it, except the word "tokophobia" listed in lists of phobias. It's very interesting to see it's getting more reported now, tho' any 'cure' no doubt too late for me.

April 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

At least this condition is now getting some publicity! I too am over 40 and I have had this all my life. It's amazing how many women suffer with this phobia in silence. Some are too ashamed to admit it; others don't want to be seen as selfish, etc. It's too late for me, too, but it would be comforting to know that there may be options for younger women now that this condition is coming to light. Navelgazing Midwife...any comments?

April 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHmmm...

Let's start it all over again as a new post, okay? I'll write a new post about it... and we'll start there. Bringing in new voices.


April 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

It's interesting but I have a brother who also has no children. My mother's sister didn't have any children, either. Maybe it's a family thing?

May 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I assume I have tokophobia. Great to finally find a name to my condition !
I am now hopefully a bit too old to get easily pregant and what a relief it is. As far as I can remember, I found chilbirth scary and disgusting. Even humiliating. I have read that it can be cured sometimes with counselling but my condition is gone so far that I dont have the desire to be cured at all. I feel that my fear and my disgust are normal :)

May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I had it.


Never been a drug user before, i figured i didn't want to start now with my sweet baby along for the "trip". My body didn't want to cooperate, Baby was evicted at 42wks with cytotec and pit. I went thru it. All the way THROUGH it, through the pain, through the fear and was totally changed. Instantly cured. and AMAZED. Can't shake the birth bug now.


May 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

u obviously didnt have it to the same extent then as most of us on here. I am sure every woman is scared of birth...but unlike you...us on here are petrified of it.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am so thankful for this post. This needs to be discussed more openly and honestly. So many women feel this way, but we think that something is terribly wrong with us, and we are ashamed. I have always been intensely afraid of pregnancy and childbirth. I remember when I was a very little girl, I was completely disgusted at the idea of having a child, and I wanted to adopt. I am now 23 and my feelings haven't changed. Why does this happen to us? Does therapy work? I am married now, and my husband doesn't understand my fear at all. I feel alone and frightened. Please continue to write on this, and point us in any direction that might be helpful. Thank you!

June 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have Tokophobia. I am also 23 weeks pregnant with my second child, I cry every night and feel physically sick at the thought of premature labour and delivery. I also have a sympathetic consultant who will give me a c/section under a GA as I ahd on request with my first son. I am 36, a registered nurse, have a masters in Psychology and am NEVER going to give birth the so called natural way. I am tired of being told i am a failure as a 'woman' or will not bond with my child. I have the rest of it's life to bond with my child! Thankyou for making me feel that my phobia is actually out there - I am not alone!

June 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

i feel like im letting my partner down, he wants kids now and doesn't really believe me when I say im scared, everyone thinks im joking. im scared of the pain, being laughed at, being useless, a wimp, and as someone else mentioed being ripped open and having to be cut, midwives and doctors frighten me i think they wouldnt really care about what i had to say and would make me feel small.
A midwife told my friend off once for being too loud when she was giving birth.
i love kids and so desperatly want to be a mum, the in-laws and my own parents cant wait to be grand-parents but ive already decided that I CANT and will not ever give birth(deliver). I wish i was a man and had a lovely wife that was willing to give birth happily so i could have my own children.
I just feel a failure and weak.

July 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

There's been quite a few problems in my life caused by tokophobia. I left the love of my life over it because he wanted kids and there was no way I could ever do it. I have found childbirth absolutely repulsive my entire life. It really, really makes my skin crawl. I have had to pretend that I would be afraid I would abuse a child (I have a bit of a hot temper) just so I have an excuse not to have children. I can't tell you the number of times I left a good relationship because the guy wanted to have kids. The only reason I finally found a sorta-ok relationship is that I am now over 45 and he doesn't realize I could still get pregnant. He would want me to have a kid if he thought I could still do it. (I'm convinced I could still get pregnant, my fertility happens to be legendary, what a nasty trick of nature!) Tokophobia has created huge problems with my family, too. They were very irritated that I never had a child. I just can't do it. And the sad part is that I so wanted to have a baby. I didn't want to not have a baby. It was just the terror of pregnancy and childbirth, and no amount of counseling was going to change it. So now, I am too old, and when my mother dies I am going to be in this just-ok relationship or alone. Just a cousin in another state, no other relatives. It's a nasty phobia and it has shaped my life so very negatively.

August 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I too could tell me story and how relieved i am to find others, but what i want to know is


September 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter31, married, wanting a child

Childbirth horrifies me, as well. I'm only 19, but I have friends who have already gone through it. I do want children, and I think I would make a good mother. I'm sure I could tolerate the pain of contractions - I have a tattoo, so I at least have a moderate pain threshold - but I share the same disgust of ripping, tearing, and pushing. I can bearly type properly, my hands are that weak. I have a history of anxiety, and judging by these comments, many sufferers of tokophobia do too.
The saddest comments on this page are the ones about women's loved ones, mainly their husbands, disapproving and leaving them because they (the men or grandparents) wanted children or grandchildren. I think this is terrible. We have the right to make decisions about our bodies, if we don't want to destroy our bodies with childbirth, then we shouldn't have to. We don't have to. Men who desert women because they don't want to bear them children are weak, pathetic men. They need to realise what a horrific process it is and understand and respect the choice of the woman they love. A fear is a fear, if someone was terrified of spiders, would you leave them? To me, the unacceptence of the woman's decision is about as disgusting as the whole vaginal birth process.

September 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am 27 and nearly 5 months pregnant. I only realised my tokophobia (or at least it only developed) after I found out I was pregnant with our planned baby. I had a placenta previa - a blocked cervix so the baby could only be delivered by c section. I was thrilled that I had been goven a way out...as I am only really terrified of the birth notthe pregancy. Its the thought of tearing that just makes me burst into tears ...However placenta previa have a tendancy to move and guess what!? Mine has...so now I am being refused a c section and told to do it naturally and it is natural to be scared! SCARED! I am not scared! I am blood curdlingly terrified! I have been having a really happy pregancy but now feel that if I have this baby naturally I will hate it. This news has now made me resent having this baby and I just can't get anyone to take me seriously...even though the doctors have been playing games with me and building me up and now letting me down.
So I am extremely grateful to hear of others shared fears. My husband keeps saying well I will be with you...but that is no help. Whatthe hell is he gonna do? And I am terrified of being ruined afterwards and sex being pointless and unenjoyable for both of us, but especially him.
I am scared of all the aftermath too. The incontinence, possible permenant internal damage...! How can I be expected to go through that! And drugs are not the answer ...not to my real fears.Funnily if it was just the pain I would not care!
It feels like I have been given so many months to live but have to face execution at the end. I know it sounds severe but a c section was like an open door at the end of all this and now the jail gates are shut.
Thankyou to everyone who has shared their views.

October 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I can't believe how much better I feel to read that I am not alone. I am having a very difficult time facing the idea of childbirth...actually, pregnancy too. I am almost 33 years old and married to a wonderful man who wants children. When we married 2 years ago, I told him I also wanted children. And I do, I just don't want to give birth. I mentioned adoption and he won't even listen to me about it. He says he just can't get excited about adoptin. Here's my problem: I don't want a baby wriggling around inside me, I don't want to give birth and squeeze a human being out of my body *cringe*, and most of all, I don't want it trying to cling to my breast. I always thought of myself as a warm, loving and bubbly person. So why do I feel cold, like I'm Cruella DaVille or something? If I don't have a baby, it's just me, the hubby, a dog and no real family (no siblings, parents are deceased). That's no life either. So I guess I gotta pick my poison, huh?

October 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think I may have tokophobia too, and I just stumbled across the term. I don't know where mine comes from exactly. It's been around since adolescence when I heard repeatedly from my mom about how bad it was for her (pitocin after stalled labor). I don't think she meant any harm, but no matter. I'm 24 and I at least think I want kids. Sometimes I see others' kids misbehaving or see just how much effort it takes to entertain a 3 year old and it wonder if I could tolerate it- wonder if I could even like my own children when sometimes kids bore me to death. Maybe i just dont have enough experience with young kids to have confidence. I hear it comes naturally with your own. Other than that, the whole birth routine freaks me out. Sometimes I find info on stuff like waterbirth that at least temporarily allays my fears. I dont fear pregnancy much although I hope I dont get morning sickness, hemorriods, droopy and flat boobs (i have small breasts)or vericose veins. I do totally understand the fear of tearing, of not looking or feeling the same sexually to myself or a partner, of incontience. I was raised to think of my body as a sexual thing (tho not explicitly most of the time) so the idea of birth as a sexual event and babies attached to the actual breast seem gross, almost incestual. Even tho I know that biologically they have a dual purpose, I just seems wrong somehow. Maybe too much emphasis was placed on sexuality? I figure maybe I can navigate some of it by waterbirth. Keep the lights low and my partner cant see the baby emerge. The buyoancy of the water is also supposed to help alleviate pressure and reduce the likelhood of tearing (I hope this helps those of you with that specific fear!) I find myself most confused by the simultaneous fear of birth, yet the curiousity to experience it. As for it being a miracle, the baby is great. I'd love empowerment, but I'm afraid all I'll get is an anxiety attack during labor from pain and fear of judgement for that pain or for making noise or whatever. In some ways, i think I'd rather labor alone than have a partner with me. I'm not sure I want him to see me so exposed, emotionally and physically. I heard of one woman who had her husband catch the baby and said how special it was to have *rough quote* "the baby was touched on the outside for the first time by the man who created it with love"-it sounds nice,but I can't for the life of me understand women who want their husbands to catch the baby. I dont want him down there.
They are fleeting and i know they are irrational, but i also sometimes hope for there to be a need for a c-section,even tho recovery is physically more difficult. I fear that I will have flashbacks or phatom labor pain, like soldiers do who lose limbs. I worry that I won't be able to look at the world the same way afterward or that my partner will no longer desire me or will love the baby more. I have seen women write that they love the kids more than their husbands. I understand loving them differently, but one more than the other is sick. Why did they get married, just to have babies? It makes me worry that I will resent my kids. I know this is a long rant, but it feels so good to get it out to people who understand and don't think it is overreacting. I do truly hope that i eventually have a good expereience with no bad psychological outcome, and that those of you who are still able to concieve have the same. Best wishes and thanks for listening.

October 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am preganant with my second child. I know from experience with my first child, the feelings of love for that child are amazingly stong and unconditional. I know it will be the same with this one and whatever pain I have to endure will be worth it. But I can't shake the fear that labor, delivery and especially healing will be so hard again. I had 4th degree tearing and it took a solid 6 months before I could sit normally again, not to mention the hemhroids and painful sex. I am really terrified and am considering cesarean, any suggestions?

October 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I have so many things to say, I have begun another post about this.

I hope to get it out in the next few days.

I can't thank all the women who continually write to me about this and am almost always at a loss to write answering them... it is so overwhelming to think about the pain you all must feel. I can't even imagine - and want to appease you with platitudes that everyone else must say, but hold my tongue knowing they mean nothing.

I will write more.


October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I have two beautiful children, both of whom where born vaginally and with no medical interventions (except for having my water broken "to start labor" with my first child). It has been 3 1/2 years since I have pushed out a baby and we would like to have maybe 2 more children. I found this site because I suffered a severe panic attack upon thinking I was pregnant last month. Now, I feel this attack was brought on because I was 4 weeks out of my third major surgery in 18 months. I had developed (very rare) abdominal varicose veins and leg varicosities while pregnant with my second child. The surgeries were repairing the damage. I thought that I would find support here on this discussion, but instead I would like to give support. My second child was born with torticollis, which means that her head was turned to the side. My labor with her was 36 hours and the last 10 felt like transition. She was extrememly difficult to push out, as she was essentially stuck because she was unable to turn her head to navigate the birth canal. I believe that is also why the labor was so long and hard - she was not able to properly engage so I was not dialating. NOW, all of that being said - the labor was very enpowering. Our bodies are made to give birth. That is what we, as women, are designed to do. As I look back over the experience, I can see that the only truly unbearable times were not caused by the labor or the birth, but by my own fears. Labor is not to be feared. We are given divine intervention in our times of need. You will be given the strength when you need it. When I felt that I could not go on, the contractions changed to ones that I could handle. Even when pushing, you get a nice break in between contractions. Go natural, as it gives you the greatest amount of control over your baby's birth. You can do what you need to do, be in the position you want and push how you want. There is also nothing to be afraid of after the birth as well. Your body will be that of a mother at that point and it will go back to functioning normally. You can even lose all or most of the weight pretty quickly if you breastfeed. Labor is a big deal for some of us (others can sneeze and their babies are born), but is a natural process. We were made to do this. It is beautiful

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you navelgazing midwife and all of you who have written about your feelings and fears. It is an indescribably relief to know I am not alone. I'm in my early 30s and feel i have spent most of my adult life feeling I'll do anything to avoid childbirth. Now I find to my horror that I sometimes feel maybe I want a child (my lovely husband does, at least), but the thought of birth makes the very notion intolerable. I've had depression and anxiety off and on most of my life - and witnessed domestic abuse as a child - perhaps there is a connection - perhaps not. If anything it is preferable that actually we are NORMAl, and it is OK to be this scared. Sometimes I think I am the only rational woman in the world - why wouldn't such a disgusting, terrifying, bloody, screaming process inspire fear and avoidance? I sweat and feel faint at the thought, I freak out even just trying to talk about it with my husband or therapist.
Someone else already wrote: "being in tremendous pain for hours and hours and then feeling my vagina rip open. [I mean imagine horror movies when people are stabbed. I mean oh my goodness! It's like the same thing because it's skin being torn apart in some way and it's no small paper cut] And then I have white coat syndrome but if I have a homebirth I can't have an epidural. Oh dear lord Jesus it scares me to death. and then like i don't want people touching and looking at my vagina, which is already ugly and will look even more ugly as a baby human being slowly pulls it apart. And labor seems so scarry. Though I love children all the time, I hate children when this thought comes about. I feel like no one cares about me, the one who is pain , worry , and terrified. Everyone just thinks of this stupid baby that doesn't care anything about whats going on because it doesn't know anything." This is EXACTLY how I feel. What are we going to do? I am so depressed at the thought of never being able to have children; but even more depressed and fearful of having to dread this for 9 months, then actually go through this, and then live with the memories of it. I feel as though i owe it to my husband to leave him so he can find someone willing to do this for him.

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Some extremely useful information about our condition below--I loved the article and it was very useful to me. I am too old to have a child now--over 45, and in perimenopause and single as well--but just yesterday my 80 year old mother threw a fit because I never managed to have a child and she now has no grandchildren. Turns out my brother's wife has the same problem and since there are only the two of us she is likely not going to ever be a grandmother. I have several friends with the same phobia--several had terminations rather than deal with childbirth. This is a massive problem that's been under the carpet for too long. We need to get back to the point where women have more options in childbirth, including general anesthesia and no memory of the birth experience. A very wealthy friend of mine, who could afford in-home care for the child, arranged to have her baby that way, and she was thrilled with it. No memory of it at all. No labor, no nothing. Just woke up to excellent nursing care in the hospital, care for her and the baby at home, no breastfeeding, no shredded crotch, no lochia, nothing. Very peaceful, no dramatics, no crises, adequate pain meds for the recovery, no labor pain at all. If I could have had a birth like that--essentially not being concious of it but still getting the baby as a result--I could have given my mother a grandchild and I wouldn't be completely alone when she dies. But no, childbirth is the only medical procedure (and it frequently deteriorates to that, no matter what the crunchies say) where you have to suffer endless torture that wouldn't even be legal at Guantanamo Bay, and be concious of it to boot. I deserve better than that, and all women deserve better than that. We need more options and less sass from the natural childbirth crowd.

I hope you enjoy the article and find it useful. I did.


October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks to all the women on here who have shared their feelings about this. I'm 27, and tokophobia has ruined my life. It has ruined every relationship I've had, means I find it difficult to be around pregnant women and babies and has ruined my career.

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm almost finished writing a brand new post about this. Please keep an eye on the beginning of the blog about this. Just search tokophobia again and it should pop up or look again in the next week or so... I am utilizing the comments here, adding my own comments and asking others for input, insight and information.

Thanks to everyone, too.


October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

All I can say: birth is bliss. We are made to handle the pain just fine and it is really not that bad. I would not have missed the real moment of true birth in my life. I chose to do it that way 4 times so far. Tokophobia... sheesh. Women wake up!!!!!!! Don't let those guys tell you what you know best. What a world we live in.

November 1, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am crying as I type this because I honestly thought there was something wrong with me for feeling this way. I am 32 years old, and am pregnant with my first child. This child was completely NOT planned. Everyone around me is ecstatic, but all I can do is wait to be alone and cry. I am terrified of the childbirth process, and I feel like being pregnant is the worst thing ever to happen to me -- just because I fear the childbirth so much.

Like many of you on this board, I suffer from anxiety/panic disorder/depression, and for some reason it has reared its ugly head.

I am feeling so hopeless and helpless and trapped by my feelings.... I want to be able to enjoy my pregnancy and look forward to this process, but I cannot, and this devastates me. Plus, I know it cannot be healthy for the baby.

Those shows on TV horrify me. I panic and weep openly whenever I see anything about this on TV, and must quickly turn away from the screen when these shows are on.

Thank goodness I found this site...

November 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKitty

'I feel as though i owe it to my husband to leave him so he can find someone willing to do this for him.'

That is exactly how I feel. Anyone who thinks this is not a genuine phobia needs to wake up and give us a break.

I identify so much with a lot of what has been said here - I am repulsed and terrified by the whole thing. This is NOT a fear of pain, it is far deeper.

The worst part, is that society will accept a fear of flying or small spaces or snakes, but a fear of pregnancy and childbirth seems to qualify you as some sort of stone-hearted monster. We are not - we are just normal women who have a phobia.

November 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'd like to add that tokophobia is *not* a phobia specific to women. I have suffered from a debilitating fear of childbirth since I was 14 years old, and it has also had an effect on my relationships. I am currently single (divorced) and childless. I've been taking baby steps (pardon the pun) toward overcoming my fear: first, I embraced the idea of homebirth as a means of reclaiming power in birth, and not allowing it to become a fear-laden medical procedure. Second, I have studied prenatal massage therapy and do occasional work in this capacity. Third, I have gotten in touch with lay midwives in my area with the intention of apprenticing with one of them. Due to my gender I have hit roadblocks along the way, which brings me back to my original point: men suffer from fears of childbirth as well as women. I would like to see our culture evolve and become more accepting of the involvement of (non-MD) men in childbirth, as I believe this will help men become more respectful of life, and be better husbands and fathers. Just my 2 cents - thanks for reading.

November 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBJ

Make sure to read my most recent post about Tokophobia:


I find it very odd that someone with tokophobia would eventually want to be a midwife while still believing they are in the throes of the phobia. Are you feeling you are overcoming it through immersion (as some people do to get over fear of flying, etc.)?

I'd have a VERY hard time bringing on a male apprentice, too, but I think if the guy were special enough (like Dr. Wonderful), then my clients would accept him because I do.

However, there are distinct barriers to those who haven't had children and their being doulas or midwives and until they experience birth themselves, they are always in an "other" category. It doesn't mean you won't be fantastic, but it does mean you will never understand fully what the woman is experiencing.

A great topic to explore!

November 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

But see, that's the thing - why would a midwife have a "very hard time" bringing on a male apprentice, versus a female apprentice who's never given birth? There's no difference there, in my opinion. The only difference is in our cultural perception of men's ability to be empathic, caring midwives, which is understandable but arguably skewed.

And yeah - I'm getting involved in the birthing community both to overcome my fears, and to promote the idea of birth as a natural, nonmedical bodily function which can also create stronger families.

November 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBJ

Ah, but I *do* have issues bringing in women who haven't had children!

But, women *do* have women parts - men don't have those - and women, for the most part, in our culture, are taught to hold back their woman parts in front of non-intimate men.

Sexist? Probably. But, 'tis the way I feel.

November 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I'm getting so fed up of coming back to this page and seeing that stooopid women have written that we need to wake up and that its okay. Dear God, they dont understand the absolute fear we have...they must think we are just scared of the pain. I can take pain anywhere else, just not around my vagina. Can u imagine being scared to wipe yourself after you go the toilet incase you tear yourself...this is my problem aso...so there is no damn way I am heaving a child out of it, I've had to have an episiotomy (sorry about the spelling) because I have scar tissue from tearing from sex. I was put to sleep for it as I cant bear being awake for anything vaginal....my yearly smear is an ordeal!!!!!!! Seeing 5 stitches at the entrance to my vagina made me die almost....and when I read other womens fears on here I get sweaty and feel ill. I have a best friend who keeps on telling my biological clock is ticking...(i'm only 29) and that birth is fine and you forget the pain....she is sooo stupid and doesnt listen...its far more than worried about pain. When I read one of the above ones about being put to sleep for baby removal I felt happy. I am going to make an appointment with a midwife to discuss options around labour because I feel very alone and unknowledgeable. Maybe if I know I have options it will help me even consider having a child. Or am I only considering having a baby because society makes women feel like you HAVE to have kids. When I had my smear last week (what an ordeal...i thought I was abnormal too because I had a lump at the entrance to my vagina and when I asked the nurse what it was and pointed it out ((I had a mirror in my hand)) she giggled and told me it was urethra...PHEW!)
Girls, maybe there are women like us....designed to keep down the human population...hahaha Dont have kids unless its truly what you want in your soul. Find out your options about birth...it may make it slightly easier. My doctor did say being petrified of birth is usually grounds for a cesarean (I just dont want to get caught out and go into labour before the daet of cesarean).
And, Finally women who have not got this condition, please do not write your useless "oh its okay and you forget the pain"...do you think we have never heard that before???? Good luck to all of us lovely women who are scared...maybe life has something more interesting planned for us than a kid
(oh yeah...to the person who wrote that having a baby on your breast is incestuous.......please change your views...their is nothing more natural about it...there is not one ounce of sexualness about a baby on a breast)

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWirralKitty

i am 17 years old and 25 weeks pregnant, I cry and scream in my pillow at night when i think of childbirth. I am having a homeburth because if this is really going to happen to me then i want to aviod the racaily discrimitive scary people in the hospital. I want my son to live but I get sick when I think about birth. All of the teen moms i know patronize me for my fears, my guess is they all want me to have the same horrible experience as they did (which they all have graciously shared their horror stories with me, for ecouragement). I feel so torn, scared, no actually petrefied. Everything I do seems to somehow relate to the pain I'll be in when my son is born. I'm so afraid that I'll resent him for causing this. Not that my situation is hard enough with this chonic fear I hold in my heart. All your coments give me courage and i thank God we are never alone in what we face in pregnancy.

December 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAboriginal Canadian


Your telling women to not feel breastfeeding is natural is NO different than people telling YOU that birth is natural and to quit feeling so squeamish about it! If you want understanding, you gotta give it.

December 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I think navelgazing midwife needs to re-read what I wrote. I was replying to someone who said that breastfeeding was incestous. I said it isnt incestous and that it was natural. Plus, I do not feel "squeamish" about giving birth. Maybe you are not qualified enough or understanding enough to be able to relate to women with this fear, hence...I will no longer look at this site and will urge others reading this not too (I also think that this will not see the webpage as the "editor" wont want this seen). Girls, if I find someone qualified enough to allow us to speak freely then I will let you all know, I might even start up my own site. At no point on here does it say that the editor isnt infact male and subsequently have no clue.

December 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterwirralkitty

Of course I'll post your note. If you can't take a tad bit of your own medicine, then I guess it's off with you! Not a problem to me. Amusing you try to make it seem as if I might be male - there are copious pictures of me all over the site and MANY of my readers have met me - from all over the country. But, enough "defending" myself.

You will find yourself, on your own website, with people telling you that FOR THEM breastfeeding SEEMS incestuous. I have come across many, many women who were abused through their breasts and find breastfeeding vile and repulsive. As a La Leche League leader, that was very hard to hear and understand, but I no longer push ANYTHING on anyone.

Even you. But of course, you aren't even reading here anymore, right?

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

For the record, I am the one who said that breastfeeding felt sort of incestous. I say that because of the way that breasts (and vaginas for that matter)are mostly used for sex &combining what is usually sexual with children makes it seem incestuous. Quite frankly, the only person I prefer between my legs is my husband, but I will tolerate vaginal birth unless c-section is necessary. And since I will tolerate that, I'd like my breasts left alone! I do, however, plan to use a breast pump so the baby can have the milk for the health benefits. I mentioned this to my doctor at a pap appointment and she said a lot of women do it that way. (By the way, i'm not pregnant now and dont plan to be for the next few years) I think my fears are not only about birth, but about what it means. I am afraid that my identity as a sexual being, as a woman in general will be somehow altered or lost entirely. That is why I don't like vaginal birth and breastfeeeding. Everything becomes about the baby. It doesn't even seem in our culture as if much attention is given to the relationship between the man and woman who made the baby! Kids have been elevated to some super status these days. Kids are great, but they are only a part of the picture. Funny how husbands get left behind as women start loving their kids more than the man they married. At least love them equally. I hate people who say that it is beautiful, it is what we are hear for. Although I know humanity would halt without women giving birth, if that is the primary reason a woman has for living, then go back a few thousand years and live then.

thanks to navelgazing midwife for defending me even if you dont understand.

December 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I don't think any woman ever *purposefully* "chooses" her child/ren over her spouse. What you are hearing is the evolution from couple to parents and most of that is because the child/ren HAVE to have your attention and time or else they wouldn't survive. Your spouse is an adult and can survive just fine without the partner's unending attention and time. It isn't a shift that is created to push aside the marriage, but when children are a part of the marriage, the marriage takes on a different paradigm. Not better. Not worse, just different.

When my kids were little, relationships were definitely different than they were before kids. However, now that the kids are grown and mostly gone, my relationship - now 21 years old - has found a deeper and more intimate connection than we ever would have had without kids. Going through the stage of parenting together, where exhaustion, poverty, thrilling highs of your child's joy, intense fears during times of illness and then relief when it all works out okay... all of these and a billion more examples I wouldn't have time to recount... all of these things build a foundation, walls, a roof and all the plethora of rooms inside together that no amount of dating can replace.

Now, if you never *have* kids, you don't know any different and your relationships are fabulous and wonderful all on their own and no one or nothing can try to change your viewpoint - AND NO ONE SHOULD! If your life is exactly as you want it, who cares if someone else thinks it could be better. If someone thought my life would have been more fulfilling with a 5th child, I would roll my eyes at such an absurd comment. My life is exactly as it is supposed to be.

But, I felt I should try to explain this issue of setting aside marriage for kids. It is simply a season in the marriage when the marriage stands back a little - stands on its own - while the survival of children *rightfully* take center stage. Once the kids are more able to live without such focused attention, the shift can - and should - move more and more towards the couple.

This is NOT to say that the marriage is ignored. NOT AT ALL! The couple *must* connect periodically... weekly? daily? Each marriage is different. A marriage ignored is a marriage doomed. But as in our work lives, some important things have to take a back seat while other things are focused on, so, too, is it in a marriage with kids. It's just a LOT more intense and a LOT longer with kids than any project our jobs could hand us.

Does this make some sense?

December 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Navelgazing Midwife-

Yes, it does make sense generally. However, I *have* heard women (and I quote) admit that they do love their children (literally, not just differently)more than their husbands. They feel guilty about it in some ways,but it doesnt change it. And that the day their kids were born makes their wedding day look like a marginal occassion. It makes me sad. Maybe I just won't know until I get there how I will feel and/or handle those feelings. I do know that if I feel the same as these women, I will also feel guilty.

As it is now, with my boyfriend's mother having her youngest be age 20, she still has them as her primary focus when they are home from college on breaks. She will make dinner and tell her husband that she made dinner not for everyone (inc. herself and her husband), but that she made it "becuase the kids needed to eat". They are adults and can feed themselves! Maybe I am wrong, but it sounds as if it never occurred to her (or was a lesser priority) to make dinner just becuase her husband might be hungry after working all day (she is currenlty not working). So yes, maybe the marriage can become more of a priority after children are older, but that doesnt necessarily happen. I know they do have time together, but her grown children still seem more important to her than him. I am not in a posiition to say whether this is just becuase of them individually, or their dynamic as a couple. As much as I respect her in many ways, I do not want that to be me. My parents were never married ( I was not planned) and most of the marriages I have seen do not survive the arrival of children. Maybe they were not strong enough in the first place, or they were too neglectful of the maarriage while kids were small. I understand that kids (esp. babies) need lots of attention. What I do not understand, is how it seems that now more than ever, people cannot see the distinction between themselves and their kids (or roles as parents). They think that either they or their kids wont survive without 24/7 attention. Their kids become their lives instead of being a part of their lives. I have also heard of a parent and child forming such a close bond that it blocks out the other parent from being close with either of them. Hearing and reading of such things makes me anxious to have children. I do not want to be that way and I can only hope that this knowledge now, before I have children, will keep me from crossing the line once I do have them.

Does this make sense to you?

December 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hello, I googled T-phobia as have been asked to write an article about the way I feel (I am Primary T-phobic but caught in the miserable situation of not being sure what I even want - children or no. I am an only child of two only children and always dreamt of having a huge family. Now I am in my early 40's and part of me thinks, hasten the day it won't be an issue anymore, but part of me weeps for the solitude to come and the loss of that whole area of life, the "norm" for the majority). Reading your site has had me hyper-ventilating, crying and in sympathetic phantom pain... I think the article will be bearly intelligible. There are references to "birthrape" - I can hardly bring myself to ask, but what is this?

December 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm a 22 year old woman that till today till I found this site thought I was a monster with no heart I thought I was missing a gene something because I dont want children because I'm afraid to death. I'm afraid of it all I've been pregnant before and sick as a dog I thought I can't do this I had such bad anxiety I got an abortion I feel like a monster trust me I do y do I feel this way every year I hope to out grow it but it seems to get worse I'm afraid I will die my baby will die I'm afraid ill just stop right in the middle of giving birth and quit because I won't have the strength I will die then and so will the baby why am I like this wha can I do I dont want to feel like a monster

December 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am so glad I've just found this site - I have thought I was 'strange' for the past 20 years coz I've always had such a horrid fear of giving birth - my friends look at me like I'm mad when I ask them 'but aren't you scared?'
Now I finally find some others like me!
I have always been scared of childbirth and as a result decided I don't want kids because of that - I dont want to go through it. If I could definitely have a c-sect then I might think about it but I dont know anywhere that does elective c-sects unless you pay a fortune. I'm 35 now so things are ticking.
I have absolutely no fears of being someone's mum, and always thought I'd adopt one day if I felt I really wanted a child.
I dont know what the fear is, I'm not scared of dying its just the whole thought of the process and all that pain.

January 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersnowbunny

I am 12 weeks pregnant. Around week 9, I developed what I now realize is called tokophobia. At one point I even thought of terminating the pregnancy but in the end decided I couldn't do it. I am still stricken by anxiety and depression and haven't been able to sleep properly because of my fears. When I told my OB that it was really important to me that a scheduled c section be an option if I really wanted it, she said she'd try to talk me out of it later but that she would ultimately do it if that is really what I want. Thank goodness. I'm still scared (even of the c section) but at least I have a choice. I still feel very anxious and cannot enjoy my pregnancy. I am hoping that the fears and worries lighten up. Six more months seem like eternity. Seeing that I am not alone is of some comfort. Thank you for this site.

January 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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