Tokophobia is a severe fear of childbirth, which prevents some women from having children. Actress Dame Helen Mirren has admitted to suffering from it.
There is no doubt that some scenes from movies have given plenty of women a rational fear of childbirth. Gruesome childbirth scenes added to the fact that as humans, we also have a built-in fear of the unknown are the perfect ingredients for a potent cocktail of rational fear. Some of us may have heard first hand stories that didn’t help either. Therefore a rational fear of childbirth is not a big surprise given these circumstances. But when it comes to childbirth there is also a debilitating fear called tokophobia.
Tokophobia & mental health
Did you know that between 6 and 10% of women suffer from this severe fearfulness about giving birth, which has been documented as a condition called tokophobia? Published on 13th April 2011, a research study has revealed that a severe fearfulness of childbirth can be linked to mental health issues. The new study shows that females who are frightened of childbirth have an increased risk of mental health problems in comparison to their counterparts who do not feel this emotion regarding giving birth.
The new research was published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, BJOG. Two thousand, four hundred and five patients in Finland had their mental health history examined, all of whom had expressed severe fearfulness about giving birth.
There was a control group for the study, which had over twice as many women-four thousand, six hundred and seventy six, who did not feel frightened.
The system is different in Finland, than for example in Ireland or the United Kingdom. In their system, pregnancies which are diagnosed to be low risk are cared for within the public health system by GPS, nurses and midwives.
Therefore their system makes it easier for the fearful women to stand out as it is only then that they may be referred to maternity care, due to their expression of fear. When this is the case and women show this level of fear, they will go for a consultation and their care will be taken over by a specially trained team of midwives, psychologists and obstetricians.
Comparing the group of frightened women against the control group, the figures revealed that fifty four per cent of the fearful women had received psychiatric care, in comparison to thirty three per cent of the control group.
Another statistic revealed by the study was that over thirty five per cent of the fearful women would deliver by elected caesarean section as opposed to eight and a half per cent from the control group.
Federico Prefumo, BJOG Scientific Editor, added: “Obstetricians should be concerned why these mental health problems in women of child-bearing age are so common. This study highlights the need for increased support for women both before and after pregnancy.”
His comment is crucial. Reassurance and increased support are central to women both before, during and after pregnancy. It is a topic that was looked at a decade ago in the Guardian Newspaper, and the term for the extreme fear of childbirth is tokophobia.
Tokophobia’s leading expert in Great Britain, is Dr. Kristina Hofberg who found that sufferers came from all different age groups, cultural backgrounds and race. She feels that it is an issue overlooked by some experts.
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