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Frequency 14% prevalence (no agreement of definition) [1]

Tokophobia, or the fear of pregnancy and childbirth, is the suggested name for a form of specific phobia. It is also known as "maleusiophobia" (though this is certainly a variant of "maieusiophobia", from the Greek "maieusis", literally meaning "delivery of a woman in childbirth"[2] but referring generally to midwifery), "parturiphobia" (from Latin "parturire" meaning "to be pregnant", and "lockiophobia".[3]

Psychological disorder[edit]

In 2000, an article published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (2000, 176: 83-85[4]) described the fear of childbirth as a psychological disorder that has received little attention and may be overlooked. The article introduced the term tokophobia in the medical literature (from the Greek tokos, meaning childbirth and phobos, meaning fear).

Phobia of pregnancy and childbirth, as with any phobia, can manifest through a number of symptoms including nightmares, difficulty in concentrating on work or on family activities, panic attacks and psychosomatic complaints. Often the fear of childbirth motivates a request for an elective caesarean section.[5] Fear of labor pain is strongly associated with the fear of pain in general; a previous complicated childbirth, or inadequate pain relief, may cause the phobia to develop. A fear of pregnancy itself can result in an avoidance of pregnancy or even, as birth control methods are never 100% effective, an avoidance of sexual intercourse or asking for hysterectomy.

Tokophobia is a distressing psychological disorder which may be overlooked by medical professionals; as well as specific phobia and anxiety disorders, tokophobia may be associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.[6] Recognition of tokophobia and close liaison with obstetricians or other medical specialists can help to reduce its severity and ensure efficient treatment.[7][8]

Primary and secondary tokophobia[edit]

  • Primary tokophobia is the fear and deep-seated dread of childbirth in women who have never experienced birth. It may pre-date pregnancy and can start in adolescence or begin in pregnancy. This may relate back to their own mother's experience or be triggered by exposure to childbirth without adequate explanation at a young age. It may also be experienced by women who have been sexually abused or raped, childbirth could trigger flashbacks in women who are traumatised.
  • Secondary tokophobia occurs in women who have experienced childbirth. The previous experience of birth may have been traumatic, or women may have experienced other upsetting events.
Reasons for tokophobia may be complex. Women may fear for the infant's life, fear the unknown and the uncertainty of the labour and birth process. Women may lack trust in obstetric services or fear being left alone in labour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Connell, Maeve A.; Leahy-Warren, Patricia; Khashan, Ali S.; Kenny, Louise C.; O'Neill, Sinéad M. (2017). "Worldwide prevalence of tocophobia in pregnant women: systematic review and meta-analysis". Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 96 (8): 907–920. doi:10.1111/aogs.13138. ISSN 0001-6349. 
  2. ^ "maieusis". Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Bainbridge, David (2001). Making Babies: The Science of Pregnancy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 214. ISBN 0674006534. 
  4. ^ Hofberg, Kristina; Brockington, I. F. (1 January 2000). "Tokophobia: an unreasoning dread of childbirth". 176 (1): 83–85. doi:10.1192/bjp.176.1.83. PMID 10789333. Retrieved 4 February 2017 – via 
  5. ^ Garrod, Debbie (December 2011). "Rebuilding confidence in women's abilities in birth". British Journal of Midwifery. 19 (12): 830. doi:10.12968/bjom.2011.19.12.830. 
  6. ^ Hilpern, Kate (28 May 2003). "Hard labour". Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  7. ^ Roland-Price, Anna; Chamberlain, Zara (2012). "Management of tocophobic women". In Karoshi, Mahantesh; Newbold, Sandra; B-Lynch, Christopher; et al. A Textbook of Preconceptional Medicine and Management (PDF). UK: Sapiens Publishing Ltd. pp. 281–288. ISBN 978-0-9552282-4-7. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  8. ^ "Fear of Childbirth, Lecture by Astrid Osbourne, Consultant Midwife" on YouTube

External links[edit]