Updated: Mar 19
Tokophobia, also known as Maieusiophobia and Parturiphobia, is a morbid, deep-seated fear of getting pregnant and experiencing childbirth.
It's not uncommon for women to worry about getting pregnant or labour and birth. It is only natural, considering the bodily changes, hormonal changes, and physical discomfort- all combined with the profound responsibility of raising a new life. Even so, for some women, the fear is so acute that they may never want to go through these experiences, no matter how much they may want children.
Extreme anxiety and unremitting trepidation are typical symptoms of Tokophobia. Sometimes, it can turn into compulsive behaviours like taking pregnancy tests repeatedly (even when unnecessary) or abusing emergency contraceptives, despite using protection. It can also cause panic attacks if the fear spirals out of control, especially after being intimate with someone. A lack of faith in birth control methods is common among Tokophobics. Owing to this, and because the fear of getting pregnant leaves them absolutely unwilling to enjoy an otherwise pleasurable experience, many women choose to remain celibate.
Too often, this uncontrollable terror stems from the subdued seeds of sexual shame planted in our minds from a very young age. Hushed conversations surrounding sex and reproductive health are responsible for passing the stigma on to young girls. For some, as they grow older, it branches further- casting a shadow on reason and making fear, anxiety and uneasiness just regular parts of their lives.
Types of Tokophobia
There are two known kinds of Tokophobia. Primary Tokophobia is when the person experiencing it has never been pregnant themself, which could be due to a variety of reasons, some of which are listed below:
Societal pressures and expectations.
Resultant feelings of shame and embarrassment.
An unstable or unhealthy relationship with the partner.
Emotional and physical trauma from abuse or sexual assault.
Witnessing gestational struggles/complications of someone else.
Hearing about someone else's painful delivery.
Fear of the unknown or fear of pain.
Secondary Tokophobia occurs in women who have been pregnant before. Some triggers are listed below:
An unpleasant/uncomfortable pregnancy.
Extremely painful or complicated delivery.
An unfortunate incident, such as miscarriage or stillbirth.
Termination of a previous pregnancy for any reason.
The few pieces of research on the subject indicate that Tokophobia is quite common in developed countries, usually diagnosed more often in women than men. Most Tokophobic women are younger than 30 and experience the primary type. Although, in some cases, older women have been affected. Overall, about 14% of all women struggle with Tokophobia. While that is not a small number, the actual numbers could be much higher and unknown.
Risk Factors and Suggestions for Treatment
The risks associated with Tokophobia go beyond the mental and emotional struggles. It can lead to self-induced miscarriages or abortions, which can turn fatal if proper help is not available immediately. At times, it may even cause eating disorders. If it becomes too severe, it can also lead to infertility. Therefore, it's essential to get the right help.
Tokophobia is treatable through therapy or counselling.Yoga, meditation, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle are also helpful since they reduce anxiety and promote a healthy mindset. Tokophobics should avoid taking birth control pills, which cause hormonal changes, making the fear worse.At the same time, it is critical to remember that wanting or not wanting children is a personal choice and shouldn't involve shame. The actual concern is keeping the fear from becoming so intense that it interferes with daily life, prompting severe consequences. Besides, Tokophobics who desire kids also have other options, such as adoption and surrogacy.
There are likely thousands of undiagnosed Tokophobic patients around the world right now. This article is only a brief and informal guide to let Tokophobhics know that they are not on their own so they can take the next step and seek help.
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