Brace up for baby bump


A mother taking care of her new born immediately conjures up an image of the purest and the most selfless form of love. But not all women have such pleasant thoughts about pregnancy and motherhood. The very idea of conceiving and going through the process of childbirth scares them out of their wits. They are so petrified that they are ready to let go of the immense joy associated with being a mother. Not many know that these women are suffering from a psychological disorder called Tokophobia which means the fear of childbirth and pregnancy. Tokophobia is also known as Enfantophobia.

Tokophobic women are afraid not only of the physical pain associated with childbirth but also shudder thinking about the mental trauma that they would have to undergo during the gestation period. This phobia is generally classified into two types:

Primary Tokophobia is a deep rooted fear of childbirth which can start much before pregnancy even in the adolescent days. This might crop up because of some of their own mother’s experiences or something traumatic related to it that they came across.
Secondary Tokophobia occurs due to an earlier dreadful experience of traumatic delivery, poor obstetric practice or medical attention, post natal depression or other such disturbing event which makes them emotionally weak to consider conceiving again.

Some of the common symptoms associated with Tokophobia are frequent nightmares, shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety attacks, using several contraceptive methods at once, intense feeling of fright among others. The phobia is such that it keeps haunting, making it difficult to lead a normal life. At times, the condition becomes so severe that one feels disgusted at the mere thought of something alive growing in them. They can even go to the extent of aborting their child to get rid of that morbid fear.

Although this condition is quite problematic, one should not consider it as the end of all hope of becoming a parent. There are techniques and treatment options to overcome this fear. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which involves analyzing one’s thoughts about childbirth, pregnancy, labor pain, delivery and motherhood helps in recognizing their fears better.

Once aware of these concerns, it becomes easier for one to deal with them. Talking to an expert like a gynecologist, midwife, obstetrician or birth counselor about this can help in bringing out the fear thus providing relief to the patient to a great extent.
Understanding the fact that a woman is blessed with the gift of bringing a new life into this world might help one in soothing her fear.

Tokophobics are encouraged to take initiative of learning about the misconceptions associated with pregnancy and childbirth and burst these myths.

Hypnotherapy is another treatment option through which Tokophobia can be cured wherein hypnotism is used for relaxing the person. This helps in putting the conscious mind to the backseat and utilizing the subconscious mind to handle the fear of childbirth.

For pregnant women suffering from this disorder, full emotional support of the partner can also go a long way in reducing the anxiety levels.

A clinical psychologist can further help to teach Progressive Muscular Relaxation along with Visualization; both of which are known to be highly effective techniques for a smooth childbirth.  

Women suffering from Tokophobia should not be perceived as baby haters. Some are genuinely fond of children but are too scared to conceive. It then becomes essential that their families and the society at large understand their plight and empathize with them without seeing them in a negative light. Like all phobias, tokophobia too can be treated and tokophobics too can have children and lead a normal life.

(The writer is a Senior Consultant in Clinical Psychology)

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