Tokophobia: How to handle your fear of childbirth

How to handle your fear of childbirth

The announcement of your pregnancy is usually met with excited friends and family sharing their congratulations. And while you’re happy for the abundance of love and support, it can feel like your tokophobia symptoms don’t have a place.


Tokophobia affects thousands of Americans. However, awareness of this psychological condition remains scarce. We’re sharing everything you need to know about tokophobia, so you can receive the help and support you need. 

Fear of childbirth 

Many expecting parents experience fear of childbirth. Concerns surrounding this can range from the expected (worries around baby’s health and hospital care) to the extreme (an all-consuming fear of giving birth). 


Most birth anxieties stem from the unknowingness; of not knowing what to expect during childbirth. Although entertainment, medical professionals, and family and friends can share birth stories, their experiences will not be the same as yours. And while the uniqueness of childbirth is one of the many things that makes it so magical, it can also cause intense fear.

What is tokophobia?

Tokophobia refers to the most extreme fear of giving birth. Those who have tokophobia are categorized as having a phobia of childbirth. Some cases of the condition can also relate to dread surrounding pregnancy. 


Tokophobia is a psychological disorder. However, many medical professionals overlook the condition or associate it with depression or postnatal depression. Despite the lack of attention, pregnancy fear is a serious condition.


If you suspect you’re suffering from tokophobia, you’re not alone and there is medical support out there.

Where does tokophobia stem from?

Pregnancy and childbirth are periods of intense emotion. With such a big life, changes can come anxiety. Although tokophobia can stem from anxiety, it’s more likely to be the result of experiences or trauma exposure.

Primary tokophobia

Primary tokophobia affects women who have never given birth before. These individuals can experience intense fear of birth due to exposure to negative birth scenarios on TV or shared by people in their lives. It’s important to be aware that television births often have dramatic intent and are adverse experiences that don’t reflect the majority of real births. Other causes for primary tokophobia include:

  • Having been raped or sexually assault in the past
  • A traumatic medical experience
  • History of anxiety and depression
  • Knowledge deficit surrounding pregnancy and childbirth

Secondary tokophobia

Secondary tokophobia stems from past negative birth experiences. It may also occur for those who have miscarried, had a stillbirth, or a termination. Anxiety and depression can still be a symptom of secondary tokophobia. However, mental health conditions are less common.

Do I have tokophobia?

If you’re experiencing fear during pregnancy or relating to a potential future pregnancy, you might be asking “do I have tokophobia?” The first thing to be aware of is that tokophobia and pregnancy anxiety is different. Most expecting parents will experience anxiety relating to finances, health, happiness, and functioning as a larger unit. However, tokophobia is a debilitating condition that infiltrates your daily existence. Symptoms of tokophobia are much more serious and will aid you in identifying whether you have anxiety or something more serious.

Symptoms of tokophobia

  • Irrational and uncontrollable fear of pregnancy and childbirth can result in:
  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Panic attacks―shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, stomach pain, numbness, heart palpitations.
  • Regular nightmares
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Seeking alternatives to vaginal birth
  • Intrusive thoughts and images of birth and pregnancy, often and for extended periods.

Symptoms of tokophobia can be similar to OCD or PTSD. However, if the individual’s experience doesn’t fully align with one of these conditions, it’s likely they have tokophobia.

Is there a cure for tokophobia?

Having a phobia of giving birth can be immensely stressful for those who want to have children or who are currently pregnant. The debilitating nature of this disorder can cause people to act out, making decisions that don’t align with their true desires. Once you’ve identified your tokophobia symptoms and received a diagnosis, you’ll need to undergo tokophobia treatment. 


Your doctor will likely advise one of the following methods:

Cognitive behavioral therapy: changing the way you think and behave regarding a certain topic.


Psychodynamic therapy: developing a deeper understanding of the way you think and act.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: trauma therapy focused on emotions, thoughts and responses relating to stored memories.


Speaking to a medical professional will enable you to identify if you have tokophobia and what the best treatment for you is. 


The Phobia of giving birth isn’t unusual. Many Americans suffer from tokophobia. And many of these individuals go on to have healthy pregnancies, beautiful newborns, and happy lives. Identifying your condition and seeking appropriate help is the first step towards living the life you and your family deserve.


For practical help on newborn care, you can visit the New Baby N You website. Our free blogs and monthly membership teach you everything you need to look after your new baby. If you require medical guidance, we advise you to speak to your doctor or midwife who will be able to give you the help and support you need.