Why Are Fears of Childbirth Emerging Among Young Adults
What is that intense fear of childbirth (Tokophobia) people has been talking about?
Pregnancy and childbirth could be one of the most pronounced events in a woman's life. Delivering a child could be unforeseeable and some portray it as traumatic or stressful. There could be some physiological impact such as hormonal imbalance or psychological imbalance. This intense fear of childbirth among youth is emerging faster than a sinking boat. You could have it and you won’t even know it!
So, what is Tokophobia and why is it an issue anyway?
Tokophobia is a severe fear of childbirth that could result in total avoidance of childbirth. It could induce anxiety that is related to pregnancy that could disturb your daily life. Fear of childbirth (FOC) are categorised into four groups which are low fear, moderate fear, severe fear and phobic fear which also known as tokophobia. Low fear is defined as agonize that is feasible that would aid pregnancy women to prepare for their birth delivery. Moderate fear is defined as agony that could be difficult to manage without appropriate help and support, but it does not lead to any ongoing mental illness. Severe fear is defined as fear that could result in mental illness that could disrupt a woman's daily activities. Meanwhile, phobic fear or tokophobia could result in total avoidance of pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or vaginal delivery.
So, what’s the issue?
There is a decline in the birth rate in developing and developed countries. Despite various interventions, east Asian, southeast Asia, and Oceania, birth rate decreased from 2.5% in 1963 to 0.7% in 2017. Thirteen percent of women who have experienced primary tokophobia have reported to postpone and avoid pregnancy. Therefore, they had to remain childless even though they desperately wanted children.
Why is it worrying? Isn't it a woman's right to choose to birth or not?
Yes, definitely, it’s a woman’s choice. However some Tokophobic people want children so badly but due to their psychological condition, they are unable to, hence many resulting in terminating their pregnancy which could result in many other issues such as PTSD and decreased fertility.
Who could have Tokophobia?
- People with prior psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem
- Trauma from past pregnancy
- Trauma from abuse
- Fear of change
- Fear of death
- Lack of education
Here is a list of questionnaire used to detect Tokophobia.
Tips for coping with tokophobia and anxiety
- Be open with your partner and a few close friends/family members. We found it helpful to send close friends a link to read about tokophobia to help them understand that it was different from normal anxiety about labour.
- If you have questions, avoid googling or reading forums. They are an anxiety-inducing minefield! Speak to your midwife or ask some understanding friends who have had children.
- If you don’t feel taken seriously by your midwife or consultant, request (and fight if necessary!) to change to a different one.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for students or other unnecessary staff to leave.
- Be proactive in finding out and accessing what support is available on the NHS.
This may involve a lot of phone calls as your community midwife may forget or be unaware of what’s available. For example, there's a mental health specialist midwife, tried hypnobirthing, did a tour of the delivery suite theatre and postnatal ward, and attended a special clinic for pregnant women who were anxious about birth.