Tokophobia is the fear of giving birth, which reduces the desire to have children. A study suggests that 62% of women suffer from this lesser known condition.
Both women who have never given birth and those who have given birth can experience it. One study suggests that six out of 10 American women have this phobia, which can lead to anxiety attacks, avoidance of sex, or a lack of emotional connection with the unborn child.
The findings come at a time when fewer American women are having children than ever before. Tokophobia is an extreme fear of childbirth and pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A study published last month in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health found that more than half of American women had tokophobia, or the fear of childbirth, in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, notes the Daily Mail.
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Tokophobia, two substrates
There are two subsets of this condition. Primary tacophobia occurs in people who have never been pregnant, and secondary tacophobia develops after a traumatic event during pregnancy or labor, such as a difficult labor or stillbirth.
In some people, it stems from other fears, such as fear of pain (algophobia), fear of doctors (iatrophobia) and fear of children (pedophobia).
A study published last month in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health found that 62 percent of American women reported high levels of fear and anxiety about childbirth.
Dartmouth College anthropologist Zanetta Thayer interviewed 1,800 American women in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which researchers say could have influenced the results.
Half of the respondents – whose average age was 31 – had never given birth before, and more than a third of them had previously had a high-risk pregnancy.
Despite the majority of respondents being high-income white women, the researchers found that black mothers were nearly twice as likely to fear childbirth than white mothers.
This may be because black mothers have nearly three times the risk of dying from pregnancy complications compared to white mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Data released this year by the nonprofit March of Dimes Foundation showed that 14 percent of black babies are born prematurely, compared with about 9 percent of white babies.
Fear was also higher among women from disadvantaged communities, such as those with low incomes and low education.
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Tokophobia is a type of specific phobia, which is an anxiety disorder in which people feel an irrational and unreasonable fear of a certain object or situation.
Symptoms of tokophobia may include sleep disturbances, panic attacks, nightmares, and avoidance behaviors.
– anxiety and depression
Extreme fear of birth defects, stillbirth, or maternal death
Fear at the thought of pregnancy and childbirth
– Insisting on a cesarean section for his birth
Women may sometimes avoid any sexual activity for fear of becoming pregnant. Those who become pregnant may request an elective C-section, experience more trauma around the birth, and may even have difficulty bonding with their baby.
Men can also experience tokophobia. Researchers have found that men with tokophobia often have severe fears for the health and safety of their partner and child.
This fear focuses on concerns about labor and birth, medical treatment, decision making, finances and parenting abilities, notes Very Well Mind.
Researchers have suggested several explanations to explain the development of tokophobia. Some of these include hearing about traumatic birth experiences from other women, fear of inadequate pain management, and pre-existing psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression.
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tokophobia, the trend
It’s completely normal to have fear and anxiety about pregnancy and birth. Having some degree of fear can actually be beneficial in some ways as it leads women to seek parental support and advice to deal with these concerns.
Some fear of childbirth is actually quite common – up to 80% of pregnant women feel some degree of anxiety and worry about things like pain, health and safety during labour.
While such concerns are common, most women manage to deal with these concerns by learning more about the labor and birth process, talking to other women, and consulting with pregnancy care providers.
However, in some cases, the fear can be so severe and debilitating that it can be diagnosed as tokophobia. It is not clear how common tokophobia may be. Some research suggests that rates are anywhere from 2% to 15%, although there is evidence that 20% to 25% of women may experience severe and debilitating symptoms of perinatal phobia.
In another study that looked at prevalence rates, researchers estimated that only 0.032 percent of women experience tokophobia. They note that there are important differences between the fear of childbirth and tokophobia, although the two are often confused. Fear of childbirth involves a continuum of fearful feelings and thoughts related to childbirth.
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