How to tell if you know a woman with tokophobia
Tokophobia is the extreme fear of pregnancy and birth. It’s not very well known and yet it can affect a lot of women. This extreme or pathological fear of birth is estimated to affect between 4 and 43% of women. 14% is an accepted estimate. So you see, a lot more common than you might think.
Sadly, many women with tokophobia avoid pregnancy despite being desperate to be mothers. But that doesn’t mean you won’t come across it.
Some women only realise they have tokophobia once they’re pregnant.
Up until that point, they might feel that “I’m just not maternal” or “I don’t like kids” which is something you hear a lot. However, both of these are typical comments made by women with tokophobia. It is simply their fear speaking.
Of course, there are also many women who simply don’t want kids who say these things. But it’s possible that when a woman says she doesn’t want kids that her fear is clouding her judgement, or that her true feelings are buried beneath the fear. Once she has overcome her tokophobia, she may very well change her mind. I’ve seen this a lot with the women I’ve worked with.
In fact, it was something that I used to say all the time. I recently met up with some people who I’d not seen for ten years and both of them told me how they would never have imagined that I would have had kids; they thought I didn’t want any! Well, that changed once I’d overcome my fears.
Why it’s important to know if a woman has tokophobia
It can be easy to shrug this phobia off as silly or irrational, but doing that is missing the point. Many women with tokophobia don’t see this fear as irrational. You can actually die in childbirth: that’s something worth fearing. Compare that to claustrophobia; being trapped in an enclosed space is not known to be fatal.
The fact is, a woman with tokophobia would love a bit of kindness and understanding about how she’s feeling. Having tokophobia can feel incredibly isolating because people don’t understand and are quick to judge. Here’s one woman’s experience of sharing how she felt;
I just explained that I suffer from tokophobia and I was looking for some positive encouragement, maybe some stories from people who had been through it and could tell me some positive things. What I got instead was the nastiest group of mean girls I’ve encountered in a very long time. Seriously, these women jumped all over me. The pitchforks immediately came out. It was seriously upsetting!
I hope that by sharing this, that you can better understand what they’re experiencing. If you have a wife or partner is tokophobic then maybe this post will help to explain things that you may have observed in your relationship. If you have friends who you suspect might have tokophobia then maybe this post will help you to better understand them.
7 signs of women with tokophobia
Not all women with tokophobia will experience all of these, but if a handful of them are present, then it’s a pretty good sign.
1. They avoid conversations of babies, pregnancy and birth
It’s often assumed that women love nothing better than to talk babies, but this simply isn’t true. Women with tokophobia will tend to remain silent if there is a group conversation that touches on babies, pregnancy or birth. They might do this because they simply have nothing to say and they can’t relate to what’s being said.
But it could also be that they daren’t say anything because of the possible reaction from other women. Very often, women with tokophobia find that when they speak up about how they’re feeling, that other women do not understand or shrug off their feelings. They might feel judged or ashamed so they keep quiet.
2. They don’t want to hold a baby
Holding a baby could easily freak them out and bring out quite a reaction. This means that they’ve probably never held a baby.
3. They have medical fears
Women with tokophobia tend to have one or more fears that are related to medical things. So having a fear of needles and injections, fear of hospitals or doctors or a fear of medical procedures like vaginal examinations are very common.
4. They obsess over birth control
A woman with tokophobia will want to avoid pregnancy and birth at all costs so birth control could easily be an obsession for them. Pregnancy tests will be a huge source of terror for them because of what they might tell them.
They might find themselves fantasising about things like artificial wombs because they simply don’t want to carry the baby.
This means they might be interested in surrogacy or fostering as alternatives.
5. They’re uncomfortable getting intimate or having sex
This is simply because sex leads to pregnancy, and pregnancy leads to birth, both of which has the potential to terrify them. So for a woman with tokophobia, the best way to avoid either is simply to avoid sex.
This means that getting intimate might be problematic for them too because that might lead to sex. Many women with tokophobia find that they struggle to develop intimate relationships because of this. Or they sabotage relationships at a particular stage in the relationship. This is often the Let’s Get Serious stage where babies are discussed, but it might be sooner when sex starts to be more present in the relationship.
6. They resent gender inequality and men not having to give birth
It’s common for a woman with tokophobia to think that it’s not fair that women have to go through the life experience that is pregnancy and childbirth. Because they consider both pregnancy and childbirth to be so negative, they hate the fact that they are the ones in the relationship that will have to undergo the hardship and risks of pregnancy and birth.
Some even resent men for this, although not all.
7. They have a fear of death
This might be a fear of them dying in childbirth or the baby. At a lesser level, this might be a fear of complications or things going wrong. They don’t consider this fear to be irrational as it’s often portrayed. For them, this is a rational fear; maternal mortality is something they take very seriously and they will probably be very clued up on the statistics.
These are just a few of the tell-tale signs of women with tokophobia. If you think you know a woman with tokophobia, then be kind and understanding.
And finally, I think it’s worth saying that tokophobia isn’t limited to women.
Men can have it too
If a man has it and his partner is pregnant, then it could mean that he might really struggle with being in the birth room when the time comes for the arrival of the baby.
If you think you have tokophobia and want to overcome it (not all women do), then here are the ways that we can work together to help you to overcome your tokophobia.
Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.
Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.