Are you avoiding getting pregnant because of an intense fear of childbirth? Have you had a termination of pregnancy because you were so fearful? Are you pregnant but are extremely fearful of birthing your baby? Do you want an elective caesarean section instead of a vaginal birth due to a fear of birth? Are you scared of any form of birth?
You are not alone! Sadly many women, between 5-20% (RCOG) of pregnant women have a fear of childbirth. Although scary and confusing its ok to feel like this, and hopefully you’ve got this far and I am here to support you.
Fear of childbirth is often called tocophobia/tokophobia- either primary (first child) or secondary. Often secondary tocophobia may be due to birth trauma- an eventful traumatising first birth that may have left you with flashbacks, nightmares and reliving the events over and over in your head. These symptoms are symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which sadly is not as uncommon as you would think post birth, see this link for more info, or perhaps you were traumatised by miscarriage, stillbirth or termination and this has led to a deep seated fear of childbirth.
If this is your first pregnancy you may be fearful and have no idea why! You may just have an unexplainable fear of birthing your baby. Or you may have a fear of you or your baby dying, or an intense fear of pain during birth. You may have memories of events in your past that may have initiated this fear. Perhaps you have listened to negative stories of childbirth from your mother or siblings, maybe seen films of childbirth or even witnessed it- especially if you work in this area, you may have been vicariously traumatised by witnessing vaginal births or caesarean sections, or sadly even experienced sexual abuse, rape or assault.
If you are extremely fearful of childbirth please know that you’re not alone, tocophobia exists and that help and support is out there.
Please if you are pregnant or even thinking of conceiving share this fear with someone close to you, a partner, friend or relative. You may also wish to discuss this fear with your GP or a mental health professional.
If you are pregnant or wishing to conceive a birth preference discussion with your local hospital and midwife can be an invaluable way to allay your fears. Hypnobirthing is also a great way of learning relaxation techniques which will help with any type of birth.
NICE guidelines now support women with tocophobia to have a caesarean section (if you’re fearful of vaginal birth) after receiving the support they need, and after weighing up all the risks and benefits. So know your concerns will be heeded and ultimately if a caesarean section is your only option of feeling calm and safe then it should be supported.
Finally please get in touch if you want support. I have supported women on their first pregnancies and those subsequent pregnancies to feel safe, calm, relaxed and empowered to birth their babies in their way. I’d love to see you calm and relaxed on your birthing day whatever form of birth you ultimately have.