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Sunday
Mar062005

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 (85)

"I feel as though I owe it to my husband to leave him so he can find someone willing to do this for him." - I'm adding my name to the list of women who have already signed this statement! I'm 27 and 4 years married to a great man, but it's not only the process of birth that makes me sick to my stomach - it's the process of pregnancy. So many people have told me that my disgust is unnatural, and a few have suggested that I'm not even much of a woman if I don't find pregnancy to be the most beautiful thing in the world.

The truth is, I am a woman for sure, and I would love to have a child if someone would place it into my arms. I'll go with not sleeping, with runny noses, with anything. I just CAN'T go with the idea of a living creature feeding on the inside of my body. Seeing a pregnant woman makes me sick. I feel like she is carrying cancer under her chest. I have spent 5 years volunteering at a local hospice, and have seen all kinds of cancers, including those on people's skin. I never even cringed and was never-ever repulsed. But swollen bellies, swollen breasts - these things make me shake and vomit uncontrollably. I feel tremendous pity for those on whom a living parasite is preying and who are preparing to be ripped open by it - even if most of them seem to be quite fine with it. I am fully aware that it's a "natural" process, that it's not a parasite but a beautiful little human being - but my mind shuts off when I feel the panic hit. And then I almost hate all those around us who continously and aggressively push the idea of beauty, empowering, life-giving, etc. Shitting and screaming simply doesn't fit those concepts for me. :(

The last thing I'm afraid of is the pain itself. I was born very sick and have spent months in hospitals. I simply know that all pain eventually ends. If it was only about pain, no matter how agonizing, I'd be having my fifth child by now! But I will probably never overcome the fear of that strange internal parasiting, swelling, humiliation, losing control, tearing, pushing and ripping open. I would rather die.

Maybe I'm not much of a woman indeed.

January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRadogora

I just wanted to add to my previous post... I definitely didn't mean to offend anyone who is pregnant, was pregnant or will be pregnant. I have only respect and admiration for those who dare to go down that road. If I used any "strong" expressions, it was only to describe how I feel, and certainly not to make any kind of judgement of anyone at all. By the end of that post I was hyperventilating, so I do apologize if I said "too much". I was just trying to share my pain and terror.

I myself was born as a breech baby after 48 hours of unmedicated labour, and both of my legs were broken in that delivery. I had been 58 cm long inside a mother who was a tiny 21 year old, and as a result she couldn't even breathe well during late pregnancy. I wore a cast for the first 5 years of my life. I don't want to go through anything like that, and don't want my child to go through anything like that either. We lived in poverty, but I learned the concept of "dignity" early in life, as I went through painful rehabilitation, and I fear nothing more than being deprived of that dignity in childbirth.

During the years I have actually sought help and support from two professionals, a medical worker and a clergyperson. The medical worker said: "You just have too much time to think. Get pregnant and you'll be pushing like an animal before you know it. Then, we can talk. Now, I'm busy." The clergyperson said: "You're afraid of pregnancy because you haven't found a male owner. Once God sends you a master, you'll be glad to have a dozen."

January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRadogora

Radogora,

the responses you got from the so called "professionals" are incredible. It only goes to show how unsympathetic and narrow-minded these people of are.
In my opinion, tokophobia is a direct consequence of availability of contraceptives because it gave women time to really think what they want to do with their life (and their bodies). This is something that our Grandmother and sometime even Mothers didn't have. They usually got pregnat immediately when they had sex for the first time because they were either ignorant of contraception or there was simply none available. As they were usually much younger (even in their early teens in some cultures) than women who are planning to have children nowadays, it also meant that they were less experienced in life, had less education, less knowledge of the world and most importantly much less knowledge of themselves and their bodies. They were usually under much more social pressure to get married as soon as possible as well. This is how it used to be for centuries and that's the reason why tokophobia wasn't a recognized problem. Because you were stil too young to "think" about yourself as an individual (as we see it now) and you already had a couple of children or you were already dead by childbirth or some disease at that age when you are able to see yourself as an independent person. Or, in a monastery or a spinster, because there was no way to combine sex and not having children without contraception.

The life of women was hugely transformed by contraception because now we have a choice. We have time to get education and become a full fledged independent person before we decide to have a family. We have already tasted life in all its forms and we have already had time to get to know and love ourselves and our bodies. That's why, in my opinion, changes and loss of control of oneself that are connected with pregnancy and birth can be so scary to many women.

January 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous from overseas

I'm 32, suffer from PCOS and overweight. I desperately want children, but the fear of giving birth terrifies me. I'm even more scared of a C section than of a natural birth. I have to loose weight before I'm in a safe BMI to try and conceive but I find being really overweight is a really good excuse not to get pregnant. My husband wants children and he knows I'm scared of childbirth but not exactly how much...I'm avoiding geting pregnant...I can't cope with the idea of being pregnant or giving birth. I love children and dearly want one, but I can't even look at pregnant women or babies such is my fear. Where can I get help?
UK

February 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

UK, you are lucky. The foremost authority on tokophobia is in England. Google "tokophobia" and you can find her. I don't know if she offers clinical treatment, but she might be able to suggest a therapist for you.

February 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I'm 34, married and have been thinking about starting a family, but realised that I just couldn't do it. I've had a fear of childbirth all my life but assumed that when the time came, I would just get over it and have a baby. I've also put my career first and married late, so I never had to face my fear until now. I have just read the posts and have tears running down my face. I am so sad for the women who have lost their relationships because of tokophobia. I talked to my husband about how I felt and he searched on the internet and found out about tokophobia, so I owe it to him that I am now able to accept my fear and talk about it more openly with a doctor, instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed. I have the same horrors that many women writing here have about the pain, the distortion of the body and vagina, the upredictability of how long it takes and what happens and even fear of death. I have made an appointment with a consultant to talk about elective caesarian and I hope he will be sympathetic. I'll let you know how I get on...

February 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I've always been terrified of the thought of having children. I tend to fixate on the episiotomy thing. I know this is irrational because not all labours involve this. I'm not too concerned about the pain. There are lots of things that are painful in life. I'm also concerned about the embarassment factor and things going wrong. When I think about giving birth, I get cold sweats and feel like crying. Sometimes I even feel nauseous. I didn't know the term Tokophobia however my fiance and I plan to have children in the next couple of years. I want children with him, I'm just terrified of the getting of them and am trying to find ways of dealing with it so that I can have a successful labour without going mad when the time comes. So I googled and learned the term. I think I would like to keep reading this blog because it's commonsense and down to earth and I need that rather than namby pamby psychobabble.

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElswyth

Well, certainly thank you for the great compliment! I sure do appreciate that.

And you are right, not all births - not even a quarter of them anymore - include an episiotomy. I wish I could tell you the secret formula to not tearing or needing an episiotomy, but there isn't one - EXCEPT to be completely relaxed. Women who are tense tend to tear more simply because the tissue can't stretch correctly when the perineum is so taut.

Perhaps reading Birthing From Within right now, including taking a BFW class might help. You get to confront your "tigers" - fears - and work through them in a non-clinical, non-therapy sense. Also, Hypnotherapy/Hypnobirthing classes/ sessions might help, but do NOT do the perineal massage they tend to stress. Women tear MUCH more when they have done perineal massage. My observation, anyway.

You are great to be reading and looking for answers. I hope you find them.

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I am 30 years old and just got married 3 months ago. My husband of course wants children and I am absolutly terrified.He is so loving though, and understands my fear. Ever since the day I got married, all I hear is "when you going to have kids?" It seriously angers me so bad. My sister-in-law is pregnant and all she says is "you're next". DRIVES ME CRAZY. It is not that I don't want to have kids-it's the pressure. I think it would be very cool to have a little mini-me running around, its just the part of getting to that.

I understand that women have been doing this since the beginning of time. I understand that a woman's body was created with the perfect design to nuture a baby.

Women say all the time "you don't remember the pain". "Don't worry, it goes back to normal." For me, I do not understand why the baby has to come out "there". Why there? Why would you want to have your loins ripped here to kingdom come? The fear of being tearing, or having to be cut, having fecal matter in the mix,BLOODY mess! Why in the world do these women allow people watch the most intamant thing? I have watched birthing videos and there just SO ROUGH with your "gental part." The thought just absolutly disgusts me to the point of it being hard to function. I can handle pain except for when it comes to that. I have had a simple urinary tract infection and that hurts like HELL!! Then the baby comes out with whatever has been stored inside you for 9 months. Ewww, wipe that thing off before you place it on my chest!

I really, really hope I can have a c-section!! It just seems a better way!

It feels good to vent. I don't feel like I am the only one that ever had these thoughts! Thanks for listening!

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHaley

Reading this blog has been very theraputic, I'm not alone! I too am 32 years old, have a wonderful husband and am also thinking of having a baby this year. The problem I have is with control, I'm scared to give birth but am also scared of a C-Section. I think it all relates to the fear of dying I have (something that gives me panic attacks) which again could be down to losing control issues. I'm also not too keen on the whole idea of being pregnant, no vino, getting fat, feeling sick. And, I also think that I'll lose my identity when I have a baby. What a mess! I'm at the stage now where I think I'll just have to do it and deal with it when it happens (which hopefully it will) as I do want to have a family.

April 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Reading this blog has been very theraputic, I'm not alone! I too am 32 years old, have a wonderful husband and am also thinking of having a baby this year. The problem I have is with control, I'm scared to give birth but am also scared of a C-Section. I think it all relates to the fear of dying I have (something that gives me panic attacks) which again could be down to losing control issues. I'm also not too keen on the whole idea of being pregnant, no vino, getting fat, feeling sick. And, I also think that I'll lose my identity when I have a baby. What a mess! I'm at the stage now where I think I'll just have to do it and deal with it when it happens (which hopefully it will) as I do want to have a family.

April 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am desperate to overcome my fear of childbirth i have one son 14yrs so am very lucky after the birth i knew right away i couldnt give birth again i dont know if it was a difficult birth or just normal i have nothing to compare it to. Before getting pregnant i shudder to even say that word i was scared but probably no more than anyone else but after i just thought it was the most horendous experiance of my life which i just cant put myself through. Problem is i want another child and cant see anyway around my fear i have thought of caesarean terrify me being cut in theatre the whole thing i hate hospitals and am terrified of dying. Ihave went for private councelling 40 pounds an hour and found this of no use i have been going to pilates stopped smoking got fit took my son on one last just me and him holiday everything except get pregnant i know i need to make a decision soon as im 35 but i cant see any way around this fear help.

April 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersue

I have just read all your comments and feel relieved that I am not alone in the way I feel. I'm 33 and my husband - who is a wonderful man - is desperate for a child so I am doing my best to surpress my fear of it all for him - hoping as everyone says that maternal instincts will kick in at some point. I like kids (but to be honest am not crazy about babies) and although I can't imagine my future life without a child, it's not like I am hearing my biological clock ticking that loudly at the moment either. We have also discovered my husband has some small fertility issues and going through the tests etc to establish the exact cause has only exacerbated my fears. My husband is very understanding about it all and is prepared to wait, but who knows if I'll ever feel differently. Maybe if I was pregnant by now I'd just be getting on with it. Pain, blood, control, helplessness, hospitals, loss of independence the whole concept terrifies me!

April 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I didn't realise that there was atually a name for the fear of childbirth until today, when I read it in a magazine at work. Thing is, I don't just find the prospect fo childbirth vile, but also the who proces of pregnancy.

I can completely relate to the woman who wrote this, and even find I have used a similar description when trying to describe what I feel to my mother;

'I just CAN'T go with the idea of living creature feeding on the inside of my body. Seeing a pregnant woman makes me sick. I feel like she is carrying cancer under her chest.'

Also, to the woman who said that she finds breastfeeding repulsive and incestuous, I'm with you on that one. The idea makes me feel physically sick,

It is definitely not the pain that scares me. It's the fact that the whole process seems like an undignified, humiliating gore fest.

I do not want a load of people peering between my legs as I defecate, bleed, tear and push out a child. I don't even want anyone in the room seeing me in a sweaty, repulsive, weak moment. To me, childbirth does not seem natural or beautiful, it seems like a horrific mortifying experience.

I have continually been told that 'it's the most natural thing in the world' and that I'll feel differently when I'm pregnant. I higly doubt it. I think I'll end u7p resenting my child for putting me through such an ordeal and destroying my body.

May 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterladybird

i apologize for reading youre thoughts, im a man and feel im "spying" but no one understands MY anxiety about this--my wife is due in about 3 months -- i secretly carry this HUGE fear of the birth process and such AMAZING guilt for what she will soon endure. we were using condoms and the pill but it still happened- i dont say anything to her or anyone about this intense panic because i dont want to ruin the experience for her or scare--shes not afraid at all so ill let her have her her happiness with no fear but im dieing inside from a serious of feelings i dont uderstand--- im a male nurse and on some lv know she will heal and the pain will pass and our life together will be fine but the actual process and the way she will be treated in the hospital makes me crazy-- is this a disorder or somthin pl have heard of from expant fathers--im overwhelmed with joy about my daughter getting here but the other side is the intense anxiety of my beloved wife going through all this and i cant protect her-- sorry to inturupt a private "female" discussion but im running out of places to look

May 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Anon male:

I don't think you are interrupting at all and I think there must be many other partners who feel similarly. I'm glad you found the post and feel comfortable speaking about your fears.

Knowing the hospital, I can understand your concerns about how your partner might be treated during her labor and birth. Impersonal care isn't thrilling! But, YOU will be there, too, right? You are going to be able to be the continuity your wife will have and that means a tremendous amount.

Also, know that it is really common for men (especially) to not know what to *do* during labor. One of the things we try to encourage them to do is to merely BE, not feel like they have to fix anything, not feel like they have to rescue their partners from the experience of labor and birth, but to stand strongly beside her and allow her experience to unfold they way it will.

If you can breathe deeply and try to find your center, it will help not only you, but your patients and your partner. (Does that sound froo froo enough for you? Sorry!)

I hope this helps at least a little. Do let us know how it goes, okay?

May 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I feel like the majority of posters here. the thought makes me sick. i've just had to tell a friend to stop talking about her nephews birth because it absolutely sickens me, i become panicked, my heart starts beating and my palms are wet, i want to cross my legs! I'm tokophobic, i always have been, even seeing a pregnant woman makes me feel sick. The thought of knowing what period pain is, makes me queasy. i didnt lose my virginity until 22 for fear of it hurting or pregnancy and i even avoid smear tests because of the speculum. Whenever i try to talk to somebody about it they say "oh everybody is scared!" thats not what i mean, what i mean is that i want to vomit and burst into tears of terror at the thought of myself ever having to give birth. i really cant do it. i could just about manage a c/section, and i think theyd give me one on psychological grounds. i'm 27 and a teacher of special needs kids, i love chilren, but i dont want the labour or pregnancy. my mum, who had a deeply traumatic blood-filled birth with me, called me immature and said it was time to grow up, when i told her how i felt. my partner tries to understand but can't. i use 3 forms of contraception in case i fall pregnant. my cousin asked me to put her hand on her stomach to feel the baby, and i felt like i was going to throw up, and i whipped my hand away in horror when i felt it kick. eurgh. i feel that the only miracle of birth is that anybody is still alive or able to walk afterwards..

June 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

This is so sad. I am 27 and have had failed relationships bc of this, too. Now, I am with someone who doesn't want kids, but I do now! I have no family really, definitely not here, no siblings, etc. My partner is awesome but not very loving or close type of person, so I am very alone except my pets. I am afraid of birth, however not to the degree of some of you here. What I have a TRUE phobia of is being touched down there, and of doctors and needles. I would rather give birth to five babies in a row naturally than have a C section (IV! Epidural!! Worse than death to me!!!). So, though slightly different, my fear is every bit as life altering, depressing, and also preventing me from having a family. Help!

June 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I googled tokophobia and found your site as well. I'm 28 and my husband wants to have a baby. I fear child birth and the financial expenses that are included with childrearing. I am also worried about working and finding someone to help watch my child. Concerning tokophobia, I fear the pain and that my body will not be the same. I also don't look forward to the idea of being pregnant, feeling uncomfortable with a huge belly. Your site is helpful. Thanks.

June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterManic Lady

It is so interesting to read everyone's views on this very real fear. I am 28 years old and was pregnant but unfortunately had a missed miscarriage. I had to have two suction curettes and lost over a litre of blood after the first one, the had to have a second emergency one as there were retained products. Sorry to go on, but to link in how this relates to tokophobia, I was already petrified of giving birth to the point that I was considering terminating. I now associate pregnancy with illness, trauma and fear due to the miscarriage. Now, 2 months on I avoid sex with my husband as 'sex=pregancy' and want to avoid this at all costs.The thing is I would love to have a child but have this terrifying fear that I will bleed to death, or that I will tear so bad or have endometritis and die after the birth. I also happen to be an RN which I sometimes find really ironic. Again it isnt the pain of the birth that I fear but rather the uncertainty and loss of control over what may happen to me. I am actually more fearfull of the need to have a cesearian as this is major abdominal surgery and sometimes people forget this. I guess we have to realise that there are no guarentees in anything in life but it does not make the fear and impact that it has on us as women any less real.

June 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Im not scared of spiders, rats, birds, but people laugh when I say Im terrified of the thought of child birth, the perceived violence of it. Im not sacred of dying, Im scared of not having control, for waiting for some help that is too busy, for not knowing who my midwife will be, for not getting a nice one. For hours of uncontrollable pain and yes most get an amazing bundle at the end, but Lord, how is is not anything but terrifying to all people.
Ive jumped out of planes, run marathons, taken myself to high pain levels, but I know how to stop them, I know how to make it stop. I simply panick when I think of it, Im married and aproaching 26 and want kids, I have not idea what to do!!

July 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hello, I'm 23 years old and have been with my boyfriend for 5 years. We have always talked about getting married and having children. (I must mention that he is also 5 years older than me.) I have always wanted a large family with lots of kids running around.

But last night we were talking and he was being very serious about having children soon. I told him is we were married - we could have as many kids as we like. He told me he thinks about having kids everyday and his clock is "ticking" and that he's not going to wait 5 years to have kids and does not want to be an "old dad."

This morning I woke up in a panic - realizing I am terrified of giving birth. I was relieved to find this page and know that I'm not alone.

What can I do to calm myself? I do have issues with anxiety/depression, like many other on here - so I think this fear is heightended by this fact. I'm excited to have a baby grow inside of me. I am terrified of giving birth, possibly having my vagina cut, or possibly tearing. I don't want to be deformed! I am also scared of defecating infront of people, having tons of people look up there, and my loving boyfriend being grossed out while watching me give birth. I am crying as I type this, that's how upset I am.

He is being very adoment about having a child soon, and I have not told him of my fear. I don't want him to think I'm going to be a bad mother - since he's always commented on how wonderful of a mother I would be.

I am not currently pregnant, I would like to be married first. But I did have a "scare" last week. And when I called my boyfriend to tell him I had my period - he was dissappointed, and I was excited. I don't want this to ruin our relationship or for his feelings about having children with me to change.

What can I do or read to help me realize that childbirth isn't a horrible thing and that I will be fine? Please help!

August 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I got married to the love of my life five weeks ago. We had a beautiful day and promised to each other we would 'accept children lovingly from God'. Whilst at the time, I obviously agreed and got caught up in the wedding day moment, I really cannot see myself being able to go through this. When we were engaged, we discussed my absolute dread of childbirth. Not pregnancy, not being taken over, not sleepless nights, not breastfeeding.. nothing like that. Just the sheer pain of it. People can call me a wimp but I cannot deal with any kind of pain whatsoever and to hear that childbirth is 'excruciating' and 'the worst pain alongside kidney stones', puts the fear of God into me.

I think recently my husband and I have buried the issue as he doesn't fully understand how much I dread this despite trying his best to be supportive. We are both still young at the minute (22) but know that our twenties would be better and easier biologically to have our first child. We've always said we'd try for one at abou 26 years old but I cannot see my fear ever magically going away or my desire for a gorgeous little one of my own overcoming my fear. It worries me every day of my life that at some stage, my lovely husband will say to me: "Do you wanna start trying for a family?" and I will have to look it at him and say that I'm not sure I can give him that.

It appears so selfish when I re-read what I have put and it might be but don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore little babies. I cannot think of anything better than having one or two of my own but I am at an absolute loss as to what to do to overcome this. Like many other bloggers on here, I have family members asking me every day of my life when we're going to start a family and I just smile and laugh it off saying: "oo not just yet." This will soon wear thin as the years roll on however. I wish they'd butt out and mind their own business. God, if only they had a clue.

I really just want some help; someone to just say, 'you know what? The pain can all be taken away. It's fine, pop down the shop and pick up your baby!' But no one can and no one ever will. Avoidance will not result in a baby here and until I get some help, I will continue to cry on my own about this as it seems to be the only thing that relieves the pain of it temporarily.

August 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

i also feel like like this and i am only 15, nearly 16 yrs old and i cant talk to anyone about it because my mum is a doctor and will patronise me as will the rest of my family . :(

i dont know what to do :(

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

This looks like a site for women and specifically tokophobia sufferers, so I'm not sure I (a man) am permitted to comment. I'm a chartered psychologist and psychotherapist with experience of treating tokophobia so perhaps my comments could be helpful.

Let no-one doubt that tokophobia is real, can be a serious and debilitating phobia and cannot usually be cured or even helped through assuraces such as ... the birth will be OK, there's nothing to worry about, pain and pre and post natal trauma are manageable.

In the mind of the sufferer there's everything to worry about and everything to fear. Tokophobia can be as bad as, or worse than, any phobia I've treated. So don't let's dismiss it as just a weakness that can be overcome by gritting our (your) teeth and putting on a brave face.

It's also particularly challenging to treat. Most successful phobia treatments entail, or at least include, repeated exposure to the feared object or situation. That's a tall order with tokophobia. A single exposure takes nine months, more including the time from deciding to conceive.

Yes, exposure is still a major element of successful treatment, but a lot more is needed to make the exposure bearable and to ensure multiple exposure isn't a necessary part of the cure.

Those who suffer from other anxiety-related disorders (other phobias, panic, PTSD, OCD, generalised anxiety) are at an advantage, as by treating those disorders, primarily using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques, the tokophobia can often diminish and sometimes even dsappear.

With or without this 'advantage', acceptance is a crucial aspect of successful treatment ... acceptance of feelings, of the fearful (even terrifying) situation we're in, of ourselves and our perceived weaknesses, failings or limitations, of others involved in the 'frightening' process of birth, of the past that's brought us to where we are, and of the future (the very thing we fear).

Acceptance comes naturally to some but for most it's a learned skill. Acceptance-Action Therapy (AAT) combined with CBT and/or Mindfulness are highly effective tools. I believe my own book 'What Is, Is! - The Power of Positive Acceptance', covers the subject as well as any and hopefully better than most.

Learning and practicing acceptance gives us a significantly better chance of being able to face the thing we fear, which is the ultimate cure, particularly for primary tokophobia, where the sufferer has usually yet to experience birth.

Managing trigger points is another aspect of treatment. This involves discovering the situations that trigger or exacerbate fears and finding ways to manage them or vary them to disrupt fearful cycles and patterns.

Then there are relaxation techniques which, once practiced and mastered, can help to reduce anxiety. I also use hypnosis and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques to undermine the unconscious drivers that are maintaining the phobia.

The treatments I've given have been mostly successful in that they've carried my clients through to a natural birth which has usually resolved the phobia. In a couple of cases, while the phobia was substantially reduced, my clients still ultmately reverted to a caesarian birth, which in the end I believe is their right and their choice, medical practitioners willing.

It should also be remembered that those who come for treatment are already motivated to overcome their tokophobia. I'm sure there are many for whom the idea of birth is so abhorant, they'd be unlikely to present for treatment.

It's my hope that my input may be sufficient to persuade more to seek treatment so they too can experience the ultimate satisfaction of giving birth and raising the family that so many tokophobia sufferers truly desire.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGraham W Price

I feel so much better after discovering this blog. I can now put a name to a fear I've ever since I was 8 yrs old. I am 24 now and am a graduate student. I can pinpoint the exact moment my fear of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. It was Mother's Day and my mother and I were watching a documentary on pregnancy and childbirth. She thought it would be enlightening to show me the proccess and that it would be a great mother/daughter bonding experience. What resulted was quite the opposite. After seeing the graphic details of chilbirth (tearing, blood, feces, various fluids) and the nakedness of the woman giving birth, I was completely and utterly traumatized. And when my mother explained that once I reached puberty, my body would be able to conceive and give birth to a child, that was the turning point. I got my period when I was 10 and I remember crying myself to sleep for days because my body was becoming that of a woman, meaning a vessel for a baby. I had graphic nightmares about childbirth and motherhood. To this very day, I still have awful dreams of my 10 year old self giving birth. It's gotten so bad that standing in close proximity to a pregnant woman makes me jittery, including my own family. I can't even bring myself to hold a baby for a friend or relative.

I am in a great 4 year relationship now with my college sweetheart and soulmate. But even the thought of being pregnant, birthing, and raising a child with him terrifies me to no end. Luckily, he doesn't want children either. I have a pregnancy scare almost every month, eventhough I'm on birth control and use backup methods (I take my birth control on the dot). Everytime I have a scared, I feel stupid and worthless. I've tried talking to my mother about it and she's shared her fears of childbirth and motherhood. However, these conversations always end with "it'll all change when you become a mother. Children are the most wonderful thing in the world." and that I'm still young. All my friends say the same thing and that my feelings will change once I hit 30 and my biological clock starts ticking. One of my male friends even had the audacity to get mad at me for having these fears because he has a case of womb envy.

It's gotten to the point where I'm seriously considering sterilization (I know no doctor is going to perform that procedure on me because of my age). Also, I were to find out that I was pregnant, I would be devastated. It's not the pain that scares nor pregancy symptoms. I'm pretty strong and athletic. It's the idea...the concept of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood that I can't handle. I would willingly enter a MMA match (mixed martial arts) or a Muay Thai match if I found out I was pregnant. I may sound like a monster for saying this but the idea of being punch and kicked repeatedly sounds a lot more appealing than carrying, birthing, and raising a child.

Maybe my fear also comes from the way pregnant women and young mothers (ie under 35) were treated in my family...very condescendingly. They were treated like stupid little girls. Quite funny, really, carrying a child gets you treated like one in my family. I do feel very selfish because of my fear. I couldn't help notice the look of hurt on my cousin's face when I refuesed to hold his baby. I would like to get over this and stop feeling all the stigma that's associated with pregnancy that I've acquired over the years (be it from family, media, etc). As of now though, to be honest, the thought of carrying a growing life inside of me and raising completely disgusts me.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

is this site still active?

September 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersweetie

You bet.

September 6, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

my wife suffers from extreme tokophobia which as a resulted in her taking anti depressants for the panic attacks and fear of it all. we have been together for 8 years and married for 6 months and her tokophobia has tested our relationship to the limit. 1 year ago we nearly split over her fear mainly because I didn't understand ( always thought its natural and she would get over her fear) but the more I researched the more I came to understand. me and my wife agreed our love for one another was to great to allow this to break us up. she is my wife and best friend. she told me of her horrifying past. her mother always told her if she ever got pregnant she would kill her ( she said this only to scare her into not getting pregnant while she was at school) at 15 she did and she had no one to turn to for support so she had a abortion by herself. the nurses knew this and were cruel by saying u are killing your child and u will go to hell because of this. she was also sexually abused by her uncle as a child ( i couldnt believe what i was hearing) she kept this all to herself and it took her 5 years to tell me. when we met i fell in love with her and helped she become in a scence happy and secure. she wants children but has expressed to me the only way it to have a c-section. she is currently seeing a phycotheripist to help her overcome her fear of becoming pregnant. we have also got the backing of our gp and her has written to a consultant explaining our situation and are at the moment waitinf for a appointment to see if we can garentee a c- section which he says is likly due to the extent of my wifes fear. we have also asked a few friend who are pregnant to have a word with their midwifes on my wifes behalf and they say we have a v good chance of been ecepted. to all those who have this dredful fear please dont give up as their is hope out their all you have to do is fight for it. it is your right as woman to choose your birth plan so dont let any1 tell you diffrently. you have the right! never give up hope. i will be thinking of you all and pray u find somone who will listen. good luck!

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

What a powerful letter from a man who obviously loves his wife so much. What a painful journey you both of had. You are an angel to stand beside her and let her lean on you through her very difficult secrets.

Thank you for sharing with us. Your kindness will be remembered today.

October 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

While I know that this is an older post, I still feel as though I have to say something. When I read the blog post itself, I felt the frustration that I often feel as a tokophobic woman: people simply don’t understand. This isn’t just a fear of pain; it’s a crippling fear that ruins lives. Genuine tokophobia – and I recognize that there are likely different “levels” of the phobia – forces women to end loving relationships with men they adore, to lie to everyone they know and care about every single day of their lives, and to feel absolute shame, guilt, and isolation (after all, even farm animals can do this, so why can’t we?). I was mocked and dismissed as “silly” and “weak” during my younger years, and then lied for years after that, saying that I didn’t want children at all. Now, married to a wonderful man who respects my own agency over my body (but divorced from a previous marriage), we are knee-deep in the adoption process and ever-so-excited about bringing our children home. I don’t want to get in to the gory details of why I’m afraid. Let me just say that my primary tokophobia can’t be traced to any single event in my childhood or adolescence. It’s just always been there. When my husband and I realized how challenging the adoption process is, I seriously considered trying to “get over” my fears, and so I began to educate myself on pregnancy and childbirth. The result? I fainted in my kitchen. I was fine with the pregnancy bit, not thrilled, but it felt doable. When I got to reading about childbirth, however, I was standing in my kitchen fixing a cup of tea, and I hit the floor. I knew then and there that my hunch was true for me: this was not something that I could just “get over”. So, now, we are wrapping up our homestudy, and are the excitedly expectant parents of a little boy, and hopefully a little girl as well in a couple of years or less. If nothing else, I hope that this comment/story illustrates that tokophobic women DO have other options, and that there ARE men out there who will love and honour us, regardless of how the rest the world makes us feel about ourselves. Tokophobia can’t stop me from being a mother, and THAT’S the most empowering thing I can imagine throwing in the face of this condition: it didn’t stop me. Thank you for providing this space for me to share my story.

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I’m so sorry… I left something critical out of my first comment, immediately above. That was to say that despite my feelings while reading the post, that I can see that you are a compassionate person, NgM, and I want to thank you for your fair responses to comments on this post. All the best to you.

April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you, Anon. Not sure if you see or not, but I took your story and made it a post of its own. It deserves to be heard.

Thank you for your kind words. I know... I *know*... that my understanding of tokophobia has a lot to do with 1) getting older and less judgemental of people in general 2) working with women with primary and secondary tokophobia 3) my belief in self-empowerment that comes in ways *only* the woman herself gets to name.

I can't thank you enough for sharing your story. I really, really am happy for you this morning!

April 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank-you so much to everyone sharing on this site. I have had this fear since a teenager but I have always been ashamed of it and under the false illusion that it would simply go away. I have tried to talk to friends and mothers about it and have always felt unheard and misunderstood. The severity of my fear is so large that the thought of being pregnant in my early twenties would make me want to jump off a cliff. So I hid my fears and fell in love with a wonderful man who for all the world wants his own children and has dreamt about it his whole life. I only recently have admitted my fear in it's entirety and realized that it is a real phobia and not just something that I can positively think my way out of. This realization has been both devastating and freeing. For years I felt so alone and tortured about this. I would constantly beat myself up and feel like there was something wrong with me and that I wasn't a real woman. Now that I have told the love of my life that this is the way I am I feel so alone and scared that he will leave me or stay with me and resent me for the rest of our lives for not giving him what he wanted. I am open to the concept of a family maybe through adoption or foster parenting. There are so many souls in the world that need to be cared for and I would like to be a part of the wider world in that way. But the thought of me having to bring a child into the world makes me want to die a million deaths. To leave things on a positive note I am so glad that I know this now and that I don't have to be ashamed anymore.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRealization

I am not anonymous and provide my email for others with tokophobia to email me so we dont feel alone!

Well I am 8 weeks pregnant with my second child. It has been 14 yrs since my first was born. I was scared with my first and terrified now. All these years I have blocked out delivery saying I will never do it again. Well birth control failed me. Now I am faced with a decision and cannot seem to make one. Everyone says you lose your modesty NOT true. I wasn't thinking about pushing I was thinking OMG both legs are lifted and a bright light on me and way to many people in the room. Afterwards I was so embarrassed I didn't want to see anyone not even the baby. I suffered in silence.

I am so terrified. I can't sleep and this has completely consumed me. I keep praying for peace of mind and its not happening. I troll the Internet all day. I am even scared if a c section. I don't know If I can lay there for an hour knowing behind the curtain what is happening.

I have read nitrous oxide would be a great option however living in the US they give us no dang options. I feel lost, alone and can't enjoy pregnancy. I can't find a woman doc in my area. I am so frustrated. I want to wake it up and it be over. Everyone else is so excited and I'm like yeah you guys don't have to do a dang thing. Congratulations has become something I just don't want to hear already. No one understands.

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

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