In this episode of the Fear Free Childbirth podcast, I chat to Heather, who shares her inspiring journey from being tokophobic to becoming a mother of two.

Heather never expected to have children but decided to confront her fears for the sake of her relationship. She initially came across my work in her search for information about tokophobia and Heather ended up finding a supportive community* that understood her struggle to support her on her journey.

*Heather took part in one of my tokophobia group programs that runs a few times a year. Find out more about my programs here.

Heather shares her experience of going from fearful to fearless. She was someone who suffered with terrible tokophobia and not only went on to becoming a mother and now expecting her second, but also quit her therapy practice to set up on her own. Truly fearless! . But not only that, on

As part of this chat. we discuss the need to take women’s fears seriously and explore their specific concerns, rather than dismissing them. Heather believes tokophobia is not well-known enough and hopes that by discussing it, more women can receive the support they need. This is something that I agree with whole-heartedly!

This episode provides valuable insights for both women experiencing tokophobia and professionals supporting them. I hope that Heather’s story serves as an inspiration to those who suffer with terrible fears that they too can embrace the journey of motherhood.

Listen to us as we explore and unravel the answers to these most pressing questions:

  • What is tokophobia?
  • How did the guest, Heather, overcome tokophobia?
  • Why did she choose to have an elective cesarean?
  • How did she feel about their experience with the elective cesarean?
  • What resources are available for women with tokophobia?
  • How long did it take for her to get pregnant after starting the program?
  • How did she initially feel about the possibility of getting pregnant?
  • Did she have any doubts or uncertainties about becoming pregnant?
  • What is the prevalence of tokophobia among women?
  • How can professionals offer support to women suffering from tokophobia?

Tokophobia, the fear of childbirth, is a complex and often underestimated condition that affects many women. Through Heather’s story, I hope that you can learn about the challenges faced by those with tokophobia and how they can find support and freedom from this condition.

Here are some of the main themes we discuss;

Navigating Unexpected Fears: Heather opens up about her unexpected path to motherhood. Initially, she didn’t anticipate having children, but as her relationship grew, she felt motivated to understand and confront her fears for the sake of her partnership. Heather found solace in connecting with others who shared her fear, providing her with a safe space to discuss her concerns and gather valuable information.

A Journey of Empowerment: Heather’s journey began when she started one of my group tokophobia programs. Completing this program enabled Heather to overcome her fears and make an informed decision about starting a family. The availability of resources like group programs and one-on-one support options proved instrumental in Heather’s journey.

The Surprising Reality: As Heather embarked on her pregnancy journey, she had many preconceived notions about childbirth, fearing the worst. However, her actual experiences in the hospital were quite different from what she had imagined. The support she received from healthcare professionals, particularly her midwife, played a crucial role in alleviating her anxieties and creating a calming environment.

Having a Choice: One essential aspect that emerged from Heather’s story is the significance of having a choice when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. She emphasises the importance of healthcare providers taking women’s fears seriously and not dismissing or downplaying them. The ability to explore different options, such as elective cesarean sections, allowed Heather to feel more in control of her pregnancy experience.

Understanding Tokophobia: I dive into the fact that tokophobia is a widespread and often unspoken condition affecting up to 35% of women. Honestly I think that this number is much higher in reality, because many women may not recognise or seek help for their fears, and so they never engage with perinatal heath care providers or researchers. Understanding the intricacies of tokophobia and breaking it down into specific elements is crucial for effectively supporting women with this condition.

Promoting Support and Awareness: Through sharing Heather’s journey, I really hope that we can shed more light on tokophobia and encourage more women to seek the support they need. By sharing these stories and spreading awareness, I’d like to erase the stigma associated with tokophobia and provide a platform for women to share their experiences and find solace in knowing they are not alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with tokophobia, consider exploring my group program or one-on-one support options for guidance and empowerment. Remember, with understanding and support, a fear-free childbirth is possible.

Resources mentioned during the episode

Here are some of the resources and materials mentioned during this episode that you can use to address your fears and anxieties related to childbirth and pregnancy:

  1. The Clearance Club – My self healing membership that you can use to clear your pregnancy and birth fears and anxieties. Access my vault of self-healing resources to tackle anxieties in all aspects of life – not just pregnancy and birth.
  2. The Fear Free Childbirth Shop – my shop is packed with products and self-healing resources that you can use to clear your fears and anxieties. You can buy Fear Clearance audio tracks, Trauma & Wound Healing activations, Birth Affirmations and more…. Visit the shop here.
  3. Tokophobia Clearance Group Program: it provides the support, guidance, and tools you need to overcome your fears and put your tokophobia behind you.
  4. Tokophobia Support Program: In addition to the group program, Alexia Leachman also offers a one-on-one support program for individuals seeking personalised guidance and assistance with tokophobia.


Episode Timestamps

00:00:01 Fear Free Childbirth podcast helps overcome tokophobia

00:05:18 Marriage, anxiety, lack of interest in children

00:07:17 It’s nice to find community in shared experiences

00:11:24 Fear of pregnancy strains intimate relationships

00:15:50 Trying to understand, seeking support, unexpected pregnancy

00:19:14 started the program in January, pregnant by October. Consumed by content, shifted mindset, and tried for pregnancy in September

00:22:20 Initial denial, but then a surprise pregnancy.

00:26:42 Elective cesareans are chosen with great support

00:28:23 Seeking support from obstetrician, having choice in pregnancy

00:34:08 Less fear about birth, more concern about managing two children

00:37:31 Traumatic birth stories shaped view of childbirth

00:40:18 In-depth knowledge of tokophobia & maternal mortality is important

00:43:59 We need to raise awareness about tokophobia

00:46:07 Overcome fear, make informed choices about children

Episode Transcript

Alexia [00:00:01]:

My name is Alexa Leachman. Thank you so much for joining me today. Now on today’s show, I’ve got a story for you. Someone who overcame tokophobia and is currently expecting baby number 2. So today, I’m joined by Heather. Now Heather is a therapist. Who was suffering from severe to the point that she wasn’t even sure if she wanted kids. This was the question that was plaguing her when she decided to do 1 of my group programs. She went through the process that I’ve developed to clear her fears and this enabled her to make the decision that, yes, she did want to try for the family. Then they got pregnant, then she had baby number 1 and then decided to have baby number 2. So Heather came on the show today to share her story. What tokophobia is like as her, you know, what she experienced, and how it showed up in her life, what that journey was like in overcoming it. And today, you know, what that gives her in terms of a perspective, also from a therapist perspective as well, on the condition that is tokophobia. So if you’re suffering from tokophobia, I hope that this is a very inspiring conversation to listen to. But if you’re a professional that supports women on this journey, then hopefully you’ll gain some insights as to what tokophobia is all about and how it shows up and if you’re interested in doing the group program that Heather did, then I’m opening that at the moment. If you’re interested in joining and getting rid of your tokophobia, among a group of other women also facing this and doing this together, then head over to the Fear Free Childbirth site, where you will find details for the Tokophobia clearance group program. If you’d prefer to work with me on your own, then the Tokophobia support program is my most popular program at the moment for those that want 1 to 1 support. Okay. So back to the show, and here is the time that I spent with Heather all about her journey in overcoming tokophobia and having babies.

Alexia [00:02:33]:

But let’s just start at the beginning. What was tokophobia like for you when you were in the throes of it?

Heather [00:02:40]:

Listen. Well, initially, I probably didn’t know. That was to be fair. I just didn’t know that word, to begin with. It was just that I hated children, hated the thought of being pregnant, hated the idea that it’s not for me in any way and we just try to avoid all contact with birth or new babies completely because it literally sent me into a panic I am I remember dizziness sweating. Just feeling like I was going to faint whenever there was any discussion of somebody being pregnant or giving birth that was quite physically overwhelming.

Alexia [00:03:23]:

Was that always like that for you since you were a teenager or, like, even younger?

Heather [00:03:28]:

Yeah. I can’t remember when I was really little, but, yeah, I certainly remember I don’t know if this kicked it off. I don’t wanna say that, but I remember a cousin of mine had just given birth. I was a young teenager at the time, and she was telling her birth story and I had to be taken out of the room. My mom had to take me out because it was about to fiend. It just sounds awful. It’s absolutely horrific. So that was maybe 13, 14 years old. It’s the first time I really remember it.

Alexia [00:04:01]:

And so at what point did you realise that what you were suffering from was a thing? Was there a point where you thought, oh my God? Am I just completely crazy?

Heather [00:04:13]:

Yeah. I just thought I was really strange because, like, women are supposed to want to have babies and every other woman, you know, seems to love the idea of having a baby. I just thought so differently. I thought I must just really strain. Like, you couldn’t identify with anybody really because I couldn’t imagine why anybody would ever want to be pregnant. So it left me just feeling a bit odd and different, I guess, and I couldn’t really see that to anybody.

Alexia [00:04:43]:

But for those listening, Heather is pregnant right now.

Heather [00:04:50]:

Absolutely. This is a position that 20 years ago I would never have imagined possible. And now I’m quite happy about it. So there you go.

Alexia [00:05:04]:

So you were yeah. You couldn’t handle the idea of pregnancy. So — Yep. At what point did you realise that you had this thing, that it had a name, that you had it? What was that discovery process like for you? How did you come about? To learn about tokophobia?

Heather [00:05:18]:

I think it was just kinda around the time I was I was getting married, probably. Because I just thought, oh, boy. I hate children. I don’t wanna be a mother. I just don’t want that. So I never really researched into it because I just thought that was the decision that I’d made. But then my husband was keen to have children that sent me into a kind of spiral of high anxiety. And I started looking it up as you do Google things and started to research what’s out there. So it was probably around that time, which maybe now is about 445 years ago. Yep. Now and that’s when I started to come across mainly your work in terms of the podcasts and this work to Tokophobia. Yeah. And the push was quite revolutionary. It’s a thing there was a word for. I wasn’t this old character, the hated kids.

Alexia [00:06:16]:

So once you realised that it was a thing, did you self-diagnose, or did you go and see somebody professional to diagnose you, and what was you know, to make that shift from, oh, there’s this thing. And, actually, that’s what I’ve got. Like, was that confirmed to you externally, or did you make that decision? How did that unfold? Yeah.

Heather [00:06:38]:

I had been to see a therapist in the past. That order was never used. We were just talking around, I suppose, the decision-making of having children, the idea of being a parent more so, but it was never really about the fear and the Tokophobia. So no. I just read it myself, and just every single line I identified doesn’t make complete sense to me. So it was a self-diagnosis. Aim at that point. Yeah.

Alexia [00:07:03]:

And so once you realise you had it, then what was your like, what were you going through there? You’re like, oh my god. This isn’t what I’m not doing it was it like, I’m not weird? This is a thing. Like, what’s going on through your mind at that point?

Heather [00:07:17]:

It was just it was quite nice to think that other people maybe felt the same. We don’t want people to suffer like that, but it was nice to think, oh, maybe there is a kind of community out there of people that feel the same, that this isn’t just me. Maybe I can talk to someone about it who might understand a little bit. So it was there that was a bit of a weight off at that point, I think. Yeah. To think I wasn’t just alone with this because, actually, yeah, I guess looking for therapists or places to go in the past, that word was never mentioned, so I never really knew who to go to speak to. Mhmm. You know, perfect kind of general anxiety and stuff like that.

Alexia [00:08:01]:

That wasn’t really a specialist that you like? No. So does that mean that when you did speak to therapists that they were kind of like they weren’t really hitting the mark in terms of really what they were saying about what you might be, something that really resonates with it? They don’t quite get it. They didn’t quite realise how strong this is all Was there, like were they missing it somehow? Is that what that was like? I think so, too.

Heather [00:08:23]:

Because I think, you know well, childbirth pregnancy. It’s quite scary. Thing. Anyway, a lot of women are quite nervous of it. So there’s always gonna be a bit of dismissiveness, not intentionally in other people, but just a bit like oh, yeah. It’s normal to be a bit scared of giving birth, but it’s fine. You know, just kinda — Yeah. — it will be fine. Yeah. They didn’t really realise the absolute terror that gripped me. I didn’t think.

Alexia [00:08:48]:

So that terror that gripped you, describe that a little bit for those, let’s say, the therapist list thinks they get a real hand long. How this showed up for you?

Heather [00:08:57]:

Well, it was phobia. As a therapist myself, it was a phobia. That’s absolutely right. It was but ever been presented by the thing, it was the physical sensations of wanting to faint, heart racing, panic, anxiety. I mean, I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about it. I would avoid anything to do with it. I would take myself out of situations. I could watch things on TV. That would start to panic me if I saw stories about something or television programs just like if someone is scared of spiders?

Alexia [00:09:33]:

Or — Except babies and families and pregnant women are everywhere in a way that spiders quite are not. And you’re meant to light?

Heather [00:09:43]:

Yeah. As in pregnant people, and you’re meant to go towards them, whereas be scared as spiders. Yes. It is. Yes.

Alexia [00:09:50]:

And so what was that like for you in terms of friends? Family, you know, people sharing scans on Facebook, you know, parents in-laws or whoever family members go, oh, you know, when you know, asking the question, are you gonna be you know, when are you gonna have kids? You know, all of that pressure that women have around kids and family and all of that. What was that like for you?

Heather [00:10:12]:

Think I’ve just always been so certain to everybody. I am never having children. So family and friends sort of knew that about me — Yeah. — aim and sort of the fact that caught a baby. They were completely shocked, so they never really pushed it, but I suppose most strangers, people who weren’t so close to me, it was just about it was frustrating all the time. Again, it was just kinda, like, not being listened to. I wouldn’t tell them the level of fear that I felt, you know, just kind of pretended so I didn’t want that. As you know, I wanna be free and do my own thing and — Yeah.

Alexia [00:10:48]:

Yeah. Yeah. You dress it up. You rationalize it. You make it okay that you don’t want It’s III, that’s what I did as well. Yeah. Yeah. And what about with relationships then in terms of, you know, partners and that the conversation? I don’t know. Like, did you have the kids’ conversation and did you have that before with other partners? I mean, what would what was that like for you? Sort of the broaching of this and the kind of the knowing that, oh my god, there’s gonna be a point where we’re gonna have to talk about this. So it’s going to be on the cards possibly, and how did that affect you in the relationship?

Heather [00:11:24]:

I think that the main way effective relationships were, I mean, I, for a long time, really struggled to have sexual intercourse. That I think the terror was, for me, was so high of getting pregnant. My body just tensed up. I’m literally closed up. I really struggled with that side of relationships. Yeah. Because of a fear of getting pregnant — Yeah. — ultimately. So that caused the strain and difficulties in relationships, obviously. And, yeah, I guess, luckily, previous partners hadn’t been that bothered about having kids. Mhmm. So it didn’t really come up that way, but I guess the sexual side of things — Yeah. — made it difficult. I did try to seek help for that. But, again, because the professionals at that time didn’t know it was Tokophobia — Yeah. — it was treated in a very different way, and it wasn’t really helpful.

Alexia [00:12:24]:

So it didn’t really work because they weren’t really going to the root of what it was.

Heather [00:12:29]:

Yeah. Exactly. So it was, again, a kind of misunderstanding. I didn’t really feel that they knew what was going on in my head even though I tried to explain it. Yeah. Yeah.

Alexia [00:12:38]:

Do you think you knew what was going on in your head? So you were explaining it, but do you think you kind of did you know what was going on? Or was it a bit hustling and a bit like, well, I don’t understand why I’m feeling this way. Like, how much of that did you know or were you aware of?

Heather [00:13:02]:

It was really puzzling to begin with, I think. Because, obviously, though, you know, I’m talking when I’m much younger and know, not now. It’s totally different. But back then, you know, you want to be out having sex, and you’re releasing certain things. It’s like, apparently, you really wanna do that, but then it was, like, my body was like, no. Absolutely not. And which is really upsetting and confusing because I didn’t quite put 2 and 2 together then, but then I guess, you know, I would do things like start taking the morning after a pill excessively or, you know, use different types of composites. All at once, I didn’t trust that 1 would be enough, you know, that kind of thing. Yeah. And so I guess it is the 1 that won’t be a bit more as I was thinking about it. So this probably has to do with a feed of break getting pregnant.

Alexia [00:13:55]:

So then let’s shift to the time or that period where you figured out what got what’s going on. You’re like, alright. Think I need to sort this out. Me, I want to sort this out. So talk us through that phase for you.

Heather [00:14:11]:

Yeah. Again, that probably bribed my head in the sun completely and thought you know, I’ve got engaged, so we were gonna be married. And I thought, oh, you know, my husband, he won’t want kids. But we hadn’t stupidly hadn’t had the conversation. Yeah. Snap. And that was obviously my avoidance coming in again And then he had a 2 week comment, like, oh, yeah. You know, we’ll get married and we’ll have kids, you know, year after or whatever. I was like, what? In the second. Just hello. Hire anxiety for probably about a year. But as I said, I started researching and thought I need to sort this out because I actually want to be with this person, and I want this to work out. So I need to kinda get my head around it. So I did start taking it more seriously in the end. Okay.

Alexia [00:15:01]:

And then what was that like for you when you because I know that there’s a lot of women that approach me, and they inquire, and they’re like, oh, you know, and then they don’t they find it really hard to actually shift into account. I’m actually gonna do I’m gonna sign up. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna — Yeah. — sort this out because the fear is so great that they even just starting or even the possibility of having to kind of face up to these fears is too great, and they kind of they can’t. They can’t. Sign up. Well, I’ve had people book sign up pay, and then they never show up at reception because they’re so terrified. So just talk us through that that what was that bit like for you, that kind of, oh my god. Am I gonna do this? Like, take a deep breath down. It’s like, that’s psyching yourself up. What was that like?

Heather [00:15:50]:

Yeah. It was scary but in a way, I cannot maybe fool myself and thought, well, I’ll just do this, and then I’ll see her. I feel about it. It. So I wasn’t kind of telling myself at that point, well, this is gonna result in me having a child. Yeah. I’m just gonna do what I can and put everything into figuring this out and understanding it. So I was willing to do that, I guess, for the sake of my relationship because I really wanted that to work out. But, actually, it was quite there was a bit of excitement within the field as well because I thought I’m gonna talk to people who know what this is and who have this as well. And there was something quite comforting in that too. Just to kind of talk to people who understood it. So — Yeah. — I felt okay. About starting the work, but still at that point never thinking that I would actually go on to to get pregnant. Really. So I’ll just find out about this. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Just getting some info in and getting some — Yeah. Yeah. Can I kinda look like I’m doing something about so that I could tell them? We can certainly make an effort. Exactly. I’ll make an effort, and then I’ll still see you at the end of it, but at least I’ll try. And now look at the messy room. Give me a second.

Alexia [00:17:06]:

I didn’t want Kate so well. I know. Sorry a lot. Sorry. So so, basically, you signed up for 1 of my group programs. Mhmm. So there’s a group of you all going through carrying your fiscal year of that month together. Yeah. So what was that like for you that process of kind of confronting your fears and kind of going through the process of, yeah, yeah, confronting it clearing them, you know, talking to others, what’s that process like?

Heather [00:17:33]:

When I think of an end to it, honestly, thinking this will never work. Like, I just didn’t really think anything would work or come of it. So I may be a bit low expectations — Yep. — to begin with. But then it just did start working. And I still don’t quite know. They and the rest of that, but it did. And, actually, I really relish the calls. I love the calls. There were 4 or 5 other women on it, and just been able to talk openly like this. Like, I’ve never told anybody this stuff. You know, good friends, family members, a couple of them know I’ve got a bit of a fear, but actually able to be really honest was amazing for me. I love those calls.

Alexia [00:18:22]:

And not get judged because I think a lot of women expect you to want kids, love kids. And then when you don’t, there’s a lot of judgment around when he comes and adapts. And so to be in an environment where there isn’t that is — Yeah. And, actually, for people you know, if you do see it to anyone, they’re like, oh, it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine. You know, everybody’s scared of giving birth.

Heather [00:18:45]:

It’ll but I just couldn’t and he hits it whereas when I could talk to him. Didn’t say it would be fine. But on a negative way, we just really understood where the fear was coming from. That was really comforting and supportive.

Alexia [00:18:59]:

So how you said and then it started working. So how quickly did that start working for you? Like, at what point did you start noticing a shift in how you were feeling. Like, the glimmers of, like, the light started cracking through kind of thing. At what point? How long did that take for you? 

Heather [00:19:14]:

I think I remember I started your program, I think, around January time. And then well, by that October, I was pregnant. So But I guess, Glenn was like, I would just then start to you know, I was on your website where there was all the videos and the talks and things like that. And I was — Yeah. But eager to watch them all the time, which is something I would have avoided completely in the past, you know, so within a month or 2, I was really into all that. And it was quite all consuming. Yeah. And so even just going towards that kind of information was quite a shift. Yeah. And then I think probably by an amazing time, I don’t remember exactly, but I think it’s sort of agreed. Okay. I will try To get pregnant, I put deep 1 as the op start tying in September because I wanted to go in this sort of last fall of the, I thought. People were like this. So I kinda put a date in place then, and I came back when we did that.

Alexia [00:20:23]:

Yeah. Yeah. And am I right in thinking or remembering that you noticed that you started to sleep better as a result of doing the work that we did? And the other person went down as well. Absolutely. Because for the year prior to that, I was an anxious mess. I’d be up in the middle. Wasn’t, like, crying.

Heather [00:20:44]:

I just was not sleeping at all. It was really awful. It kinda took over all my thoughts, because I was so stuck in this indecision and not knowing and not knowing what to do and where to go. Yeah. So, yay, I was sleeping better. Husband certainly noticed the difference when I was doing the clearances. I was not too calmer even before I’d made the final decision, I think. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Alexia [00:21:10]:

So even though that Tokophobia brought you to the table as it were to get you to do the work, the impact of that work was beyond the tokophobia. Would that be fair to say?

Heather [00:21:23]:

Yeah. I think so because I was just a good bit less anxious in general. Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, as I said to you, even since then, you know, given up my job, gone self-employed, all these things that would have been real fears for me in the past. I think I was always quite held back by fear. And taking risks and, you know, things that are out of control, all the stuff in pregnancy that you’ve you’re they’ve been out of control, the unknown. Yeah. You know, it’s the same with work and things like that. So there’s been a difference in those areas as well. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah. 

Alexia [00:22:00]:

So looking so so you went you have baby number 1, and so the thing that you feared the most that was terrifying to you, what was it like sort of approaching that? You know, like, now I’m confronting the reality of this thing that is terrifying, like, terrorised you, like half your life kind of made on most of my life. What was, you know, like, what was that like?

Heather [00:22:20]:

I think there was probably still a little bit of denial there. You know, I thought, okay. Well, we’ll I’ll try and we’ll try to get pregnant. I’ll, you know, come off contraception and things like that. And But it’s still in my head. I was probably saying, well, it won’t happen, you know, because every single year too old now, it’ll take years to get pregnant because, you know, less it quite late. Trying to work through all this stuff. That’s all I think. Yeah. So I kinda thought, yeah, we’ll start trying, and that will awfully, but I’ll have a good couple of years And then the first month, I got pregnant. I was like, oh my gosh. Which is really lovely, and I know how lucky I am for that to happen because it’s hard for a lot of people. But I think my own denial probably caught me through to think, oh, that won’t happen. I’ll just sign up for it. Yeah. Him and then it did. So that was another bit of a shock. I think I had a bit of a wobble at that point. Yeah. Not too much.

Alexia [00:23:14]:

And did you find that your fear like, a lot of women like where it was? They’re like they’re like they wanna keep a session in the bag for when they get pregnant. Because they work with me usually before pregnancy when they’re planning in a way that, like, you did. And then I but I wanna wait until I’m pregnant. I’m gonna keep a session out because they just imagine that the minute they’re pregnant, all these new fears are gonna pile in, and they’re gonna need help for that stuff. So was that what happened for you? Did you find that the minute you were pregnant, things changed or that new fears came along or would we’re like, oh, okay. So I’m actually pregnant. Like, what was that the moment that you found out and how that looked from a fear perspective?

Heather [00:23:53]:

I think that the moment I find out I mean, certainly, I didn’t speak for that awakening. That wasn’t a bit of shock. Yeah. And but after that cleared, actually, I thought, oh, I still kinda feel the same. Like, I’m okay. I kind of imagined in my head the minute I got pregnant, this awful thing would happen. Yeah. Like, you know, I was just I don’t know what I thought would happen. I just thought it would it would feel unbearable and awful. Whereas, actually, then I found out I was pregnant, and or I was still okay. I was still able to breathe out. You know, it was nothing painful about it. It was okay. So that wasn’t like I expected it to be, and it was manageable then.

Alexia [00:24:38]:

The shock is quite something, though, isn’t it? I think I think even without seeing it, you go through you probably would go through that shock if it’s an unplanned pregnancy.

Heather [00:24:47]:

Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, that seems silly because it was planned. I don’t know what we were mentioning. Yeah. I still actually did this. It was this real show, but I’d never seen coming even though, obviously, I did. But, yeah, it was I can’t say I loved being pregnant. I don’t love being pregnant, but it was manageable. Like, It was almost there just weren’t quite a lot, but I don’t mean it negatively. It was almost like kinda nothingness, which to me is much better than the awful. Yeah.

Alexia [00:25:22]:

But I’d imagine that we — Yeah. Yeah. So you weren’t this sort of you know, you don’t feel like you have this glowing, incredible, like, mother kind of experience. It’s just been like, just get me through it. This is just exhausting.

Heather [00:25:35]:

Yeah. Yeah. Like like, it’s fine. It and that’s the best I can say of it, but, actually, to be fine during it to me is amazing.

Alexia [00:25:44]:

Yeah. Totally.

Heather [00:25:46]:

So, yeah, it maybe it’s a shame that I’m not, like, this glowing blooming — But, like, I don’t see you now, and you do look that. Thank you. I don’t feel it inside, but that’s nice. But, yeah, actually, for it just to be fine and know that I can do it and I can manage it is more than I ever imagined possible.

Alexia [00:26:06]:

Yeah. So that’s fine. And so the birth, you went you took us through the coming up to the birth then and, like, you know, this is was the with your tokophobia at 1 time didn’t ask you, which I shouldn’t, it was your tokophobia more about the fear of pregnancy or the fear of birth or was it bit of both?

Heather [00:26:23]:

It was both. Yeah. Everything from beginning to end — Yeah. — terrified me.

Alexia [00:26:30]:

Okay. So the pregnancy ends up being fine. So what about the birth? Like, coming up to the birth then, what was that like? You as somebody that was facing the thing that’s been terrorising you.

Heather [00:26:42]:

Yeah. I mean, there was anxiety there. I can’t lie about that. There there were nerves there as you can quote to as I think maybe most people would have. A level of that, this unknown thing. But I had really great support from the hospital and all the professionals, I think I’m really lucky, you know, what other people say, but it was so supportive. And I went down the route of choosing an elective cesarean, which still although it seems like the easy option, it’s still that that way of giving birth still terrifies me as well. Both of them did — Yeah. In the beginning, that was just like the lesser of 2 evils. Yeah. So I went down that route. So, yeah, it was I was a bit nervous on the day. Yeah. But again, I did that. And, actually, I was sitting reading the magazine in the hospital waiting. You know? Yeah. Not out of my mind. Yeah. Yeah. Breathing into a bag just now. Yeah. Okay. I was, you know, sitting, yeah, on my phone, reading a magazine, just weeks, I for it to happen. I mean, it’s not the most pleasurable experience, but it was fine. And when you would have asked for the c-section. 

Alexia [00:27:56]:

We would have said, look. This is to talk go through what that was like would be you said you had a really good support team. So did you just sort of explain to them, hey, Look. You know, I this is I just need to go through it. Do it this way because it just makes it feel so much better. I’ve got fear around the, you know, did you just talk them through all that? And then they were they were they like, oh, yeah. No problem. Yes. We can do that. That’s fine. Is that how that was for you all?

Heather [00:28:23]:

Yeah. Is that — I just I was really honest because I thought I I want all the support that I can get here. And I had well, me being me and wanting to control everything before I’d even started trying to get pregnant, I’d spoken to an obstetrician to see just to make sure they do elect the resilience and that there was no issue with that in my health board. And she was like, yeah. Of course, you can. But totally your choice for the women. It’s up to you. There’s no problem. We’ll do that. I’d already gone in. I end up knowing that, which and I speak to a lot of women who don’t know that. Yeah. They don’t. They don’t have a choice, and I think it’s really important that people have a choice in how they do it. Yeah. So, yeah, I just said that I had to I still have. I’ve got the same midwife this time as well. She’s the best midwife in the world. I would have asked for her aim for this 1 a bit, and I have her And she was just so understanding and supportive. And, you know, the work talk of is on my notes so that people And people seem to understand, like, the consultant talks about it. Don’t know how much she knows, but she uses the words and — Yeah. — he is very understanding, so it was never an issue.

Alexia [00:29:32]:


Heather [00:29:34]:

I was really relieved a bit because I thought I might go into the hospital and kind of have a fight on my hands. Aim to get what I wanted, but there’s nothing — — really good because you’re right.

Alexia [00:29:43]:

There’s a lot of women, and I get a lot of questions from you where they have a real worry about, well, I really need to have the c-section. What if they don’t give it to me? What if I’ve gotta, you know, fight you just don’t wanna have to fight on this journey because it’s difficult enough as it is. Yeah. So know that, actually, if you just ask for it, you’ll get it. Because that’s a really good reason to get a c-section. You know? Yeah. And whether your choice is a home birth or a cesarean, and so what was your birth like? Like, you know, what was your c-section like? Like, how was that for you?

Heather [00:30:24]:

The actual operation, like, being in the theater. You know, again, I suppose in my head over many years, I built it up to be this awful thing. That I would just die. I just always assumed I was gonna die. Yep. That was it, or it’d be this horrifically painful thing that went on forever. But actually, you know, we were laughing and joking and everybody was so nice. It was very relaxed. There were 10 or 15 people in the theater. I’ve never been to the theater before. I didn’t know what the old did, but, you know, they were all it was just lovely. It was such a relaxed environment. I was sitting listening. You know, the radio was on. The uniqueness. This was chatting away to me the whole time. The baby was literally out before I even realized they’d gone. It was so quick. I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even I think 1 of my fears still up to the very end was kinda having the spinal injection in. Still scared me a lot. I didn’t feel that. It was amazing. So it was quite shocking in a way that we’re ready. And then, you know, that the numbness, again, that was quite scary to me, the thought of it before. Yeah. It was all it was fine.

Alexia [00:31:47]:

Yeah. And so yeah. So that moment then after, you know, you’ve got your baby Yeah. And then maybe you took a moment at some point in that first few hours or days, and you thought oh my god. I never thought I’d be sitting here with a bit. Like, like, I don’t know. Talk me through that. Like, that moment where it maybe just hit you, but you, like, just have what you’d achieved.

Heather [00:32:10]:

Yeah. Because I think you may be for a long time, and, certainly, I was supposing a kind of state of shock for a cute lady.

Alexia [00:32:18]:

So it’s still out.

Heather [00:32:20]:

Yeah. Just the thought of having a newborn. You know? And I think it’s a bit of a shock to anybody. So it wasn’t all sensation, I guess, just to okay. Even in the sort of recovery in the hospital after, it’s just having this little baby lying next to me. In court. I thought, oh, that’s it’s changed. I don’t know that I put connected at first, almost the fact that it was out of me. So it was a strange sensation, but not an unpleasant 1, just that in shock for a good few days.

Alexia [00:32:55]:

And did you kind of, like, take a moment to kind of pat yourself on the back going. Like, you just overcome 1 of the biggest fears of your life. And look. I’ve got a bit. You’re like, I don’t know. You kind of have a word with yourself and giving yourself a hug about that. 

Heather [00:33:10]:

I don’t know. Like, you know — No. No. I don’t know that I have actually done that. That’s a good point because I guess that’s probably 1 of my flaws is that I maybe don’t stop and think what I’ve seen. But, yeah, I mean, maybe more so in the second pregnancy. I’ve kind of taken stock of that a little bit more. It’s maybe taking me up to this time. To do that, to think, wow. Come to that, baby. And here, I’m having another 1. It’s not just, like, the first 1 was a mistake. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not clear. Like, I’m actively adding to the — I’m doing it again. Yes. Seems gonna be even more amazing to me.

Alexia [00:33:52]:

And so now is your, like, what you’re about 6 to 8 weeks away from a — Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So how are you feeling now? Yeah, how do you feel now about what’s ahead of you? Just comes to the birth. 

Heather [00:34:08]:

Yeah. The birth this time I hope I know what to expect because I’m going the same route. It’s the same, you know, midwives and doctors. So there isn’t that same level of fear this time at all about the birth. I think it’s Maybe there’s a bit of fear around oh my goodness. Why am I gonna manage a 2 year old newborn? Yeah. Yeah. Consumed actually by that. Yep. More so. Yep. But, you know, I’ve been in and out of hospital and the clinics and everything like that. And not enjoy that and must have managed it — Yeah. — managed well. I was referred to diabetes test the other day, put some of you know, doing blood samples and all that kind of thing, and I hated needles and the idea of that. But then I went in myself and did it, and it was fine.

Alexia [00:35:05]:

Oh, you’re just a bit badass now. 

Heather [00:35:08]:

So I know I can do it. I’ve done this. There’s a difference there isn’t the same but it’s not unknown, isn’t it? This time, I don’t have the unknown. Yeah, things can always go wrong. Like, you can’t prepare for everything, but it’s that there’s no 1 known of, you know, having never been in a theater before or never had a spinal before or never been on a gender setting before. You know? I’ve kinda done all that now. And it’s not something you choose to do every day, but No. You’ve done everything. — year?

Alexia [00:35:34]:

So thinking about well, putting on your kind of therapist hat on for a minute. And kind of almost looking back at your own journey and maybe the way that the kind of showed up for you, what kind of key themes were at the like, made up your talk of Feb. You’ve mentioned control of it and the fear of unknown and the uncertainty. And those are some very common themes that show up for women on this journey. But I’m just wondering if, you know, with your knowledge of the psyche as it were, what how would you describe how to be presented for you? What kind of themes?

Heather [00:36:12]:

Yeah. It was absolutely the fear of losing control. Yep. In lots of different ways, losing control of my life, that I like losing control of my 40, and the changes. And losing control, you know, just when a baby comes and everything went out of control and the unknown, the uncertainty of it all, which underpins all anxiety, anyone who comes to therapy with anxiety, it’s fear of the unknown and a and a fear of loss of control. It’s just kind of honed in on that specific thing, which is the. Isn’t that 1 thing? Yeah. Yeah.

Alexia [00:36:54]:

And so do you know why you have you got any inklings as to why you know, some people have anxiety around the fear of the unknown and and and the things that we just talked about. But for you, it showed up as tokophobia. Do you have an opinion as to why or thoughts as to why you have tokophobia? And maybe some other people don’t. Is there anything in your life story that kind of would suggest that, oh, well, this is probably where it came from, or are you kind of a little bit more? I’m still not really sure where this came from for me yet. I think where are you at on that? Okay. I think I’m I’m quite clear now why it would just cotton onto that aspect as opposed to other things.

Heather [00:37:31]:

From as early as I can remember, my mom would describe what an awful horrific birth she had with me that went on for days and, like, it’s just a powerful thing. And I think for a child to hear that, it’s quite traumatizing because you know, that’s a scary thing to hear, and that just obviously stuck in my head. And then it was probably exacerbated by that family member who’d also yeah. I think she was describing the baby getting stuck and things like that. And, you know, horrible things and I probably shouldn’t have heard at these eighties. Yeah. And that was just then how I assumed birth was. There was no alternative for me that it could be a pleasurable experience or a positive experience in any way. It was just awful and to be avoided at all costs.

Alexia [00:38:29]:

And, of course, reinforced by films and TV all the time.

Heather [00:38:34]:

Yeah. Everything — Yeah. — that tells you how awful it is. So so there was nothing else to counter that argument. You know? So when your own mother is telling you that — Yeah. — and family members and then your wider society, all the messages, Yeah. That it wasn’t like there is an alternative option that it could be.

Alexia [00:38:57]:

And so think about therapists there that may be confronted with someone that is presenting with tokophobia. What do you have any advice or, yeah, advice for them to kind of to help them better support those women should they be presented to somebody like that?

Heather [00:39:09]:

I think first and foremost is take it really seriously and as seriously as you would any other fear or phobia. Mhmm. And because the most awful thing when you’d go to talk to a professional is kinda being dismissed. Yeah. Like, everyone feels like that. We’ll be fine. You’ll manage. Yep. It’s not taken seriously. Yeah. So I think it really lifts sling to the person’s concerns and getting a you know, when I started working with you, you you kinda took a full history There were loads of questions. I can’t remember them all now, but loads but it can go back into the past and past experiences and past messages and also and what were the fear what were the actual fears? Because you can say a fear, pregnancy group. What is the fear? You know, for me, it was needles, but it was also vomiting and being the morning sickness. It was something inside my body. I couldn’t get out when I wanted to be really specific in breaking the fears down, I think.

Alexia [00:40:18]:

And do you think having knowledge, like, in-depth knowledge of experience or yet off tokophobia? It is required. Like so in the women, I’m the reason I’m asking this is because a lot of women that I work with it just nobody understands because they don’t understand that I don’t they’re not helping. And so I’m just wondering with your perspective now that, you know, you’ve experienced it. You work in that field or I do too. But we both experienced it. Yeah. To me, I think there’s a really it’s really important to understand it, and it’s quite a unique condition, in my view, because some people say focus is irrational, and therefore, irrational being they don’t make sense. But this does make total sense. Because you can actually die from birth, and so maternal mortality rates are very high. And they’re even more so now than even when, like, we would be working together. And so this isn’t irrational. This makes perfect sense for women. But unless you really understand some of those intricacies of how this fear shows up and how what that what the different elements of it are, you know, the the the different facets, the different themes, for me, I feel like, you know, once you know what those seems like, it’s really easy to work through that very quickly with somebody. Whereas if you don’t know the condition, you could just be wandering around the dark for of it. What what’s your view on that? Definitely. There has to you you have to go to someone who has an understanding of it because, otherwise, you do need to be able to break it down.

Heather [00:41:39]:

Yeah. And if people haven’t even heard of the word tokophobia, how can they do that? You need to be able to not even see a fear of pregnancy and or childbirth. But what are these specific bits to it? So that as you see, you chunk it down, and then you can work through it bit by bit, which is how I did it. Yeah. Because childbirth and pregnancy is very general. There’s a hundred aspects to that. Yeah. Yeah. No. It’s so huge. And I can be terrified of 1 bit, but someone else should be terrified of a different bit that I’m not. So it’s really breaking it down to understand and listen to that. And whilst, you know, I’ve been to other therapists. They’re very good and kind and listening if they don’t know what it is. I’m not gonna ask the right questions and get to the heart of it.

Alexia [00:42:37]:

And so know what you know about the condition now and knowing what you know with your experience in therapy, do you think that by simply the therapist just having a really good solid under the standing of the condition and the tools and the therapy techniques that are available to them. That this means that, really, you know, women should be able to get the support they need, or do you think that there are limits to potentially some of the techniques out there that mean that even with the understanding, they might not be able to fully get they need? I mean, what’s your view on that?

Heather [00:43:07]:

I think I’ve I’ve always believed, even before I met you, that there are hundreds of different types of therapies. There are lots of different types. We work in different ways, and there are lots of different ways out there. But it’s unique to each individual person. So you have to find the type of therapy that’s right for you and works for you, I think, But as long as the therapist has an understanding of this condition, I think that’s what’s important. And you might find, well, that way of working isn’t for me, but another way is. But it’s I’m just standing over it. And, you know, we have that in other areas as well. You know? In the fields I work with, you know, you might specialize in eating disorders or OCD or depression. And you would go to someone who has more expertise in really specific areas. Why is tokophobia not 1 of them?

Alexia [00:43:59]:

Well, it’s a good question, and that’s what I hope by having these conversations that women, the therapists, the professionals out there can better understand it so that more women can the support they need because I think it’s because the condition is so little talked about, so hardly known. Even though it affects up to 35 percent of women, and we were not talking small numbers here. This should be everybody needs to know about this condition. It’s, you know, it’s not a niche condition. It’s common, in my view. And a lot of women don’t because they avoid pregnancy, when people are researching them, topic and understanding the prevalence rate of it. Although they immediately go to women that are pregnant, but, obviously, that’s kind of you already limited the pool. You know? There’s a lot of women that have this that are navigating them. It’s a real true number of women that have tokophobia is gonna be far higher than any any any that we see because they’ve eliminated. They’re not asking the right people. They’re not opening yet. Why did that, in my opinion? No. You should be asking women who don’t have children. Yeah. Like, why — kids? You know? Yeah. So I so I’m very grateful to have this conversation, at least we can help everybody better understand what’s going on. And particularly for the women suffering from it, people think, oh my god. Like, you did. I’m like, I’m not alone. I’m not I’m not crazy. I thought I was a crazy person that I had, and I just thought I was a lost soul that was just, like, damaged, beyond belief.

Alexia [00:45:26]:

So thank you, Heather, for sharing your journey. Is there anything else that you’d like to maybe impart any maybe advice to those that are suffering? To move through this that can help them. Because I know that the 1 thing that surprises me, I know that there are some women that have it and they have no wish or desire to overcome it or get rid of it. They kind of just wanna keep it and go through the pregnancy. I personally, don’t understand that position because I’m like, well, why would you wanna hold on to something that’s so unpleasant? But that’s their design. So if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. I’m just wondering if you could maybe speak to that.

Heather [00:46:07]:

I guess sometimes people want to hold on to their fear, don’t they? Because this is who they are. It’s all they’ve ever known, and it’s that fear of the unknown again. Well, if I don’t have that fear, does that mean that to have lots of children or that I’d have to enjoy this or that I, you know, I’d have to have AAAA real birth with no pain relief if that’s not what you want to do. It’s you know, the fear, I guess, is it can be a bit of an excuse in that. It’s 1. And it’s just holding on to what you’re familiar with even when it’s a vacancy. But I would just urge people to, like, well, reach out for help. Just talk, you know, to you. Does your program reach out and just make it start? It doesn’t mean you have to have children. Just understand it so that you can make a decision not from a place of fear. That’s the most important thing, and you might still decide you don’t want kids, and that’s absolutely fine. But please don’t note it because of fear.

Alexia [00:47:00]:

Yeah. I’ve had a lot of women that wanna work with me because they want to make this decision. Yes. That’s why I was — Yeah. I just need to make this decision, and I wanna make it replace where I know that 10 years down the line, I’m gonna trust that decision. And not regret it. And if I make it from fear, I don’t I just don’t know. I can’t guarantee that I’m gonna be able to live with this decision. Yeah. You know, once you’re too old to have kids and you might change your mind.

Alexia Leachman
Follow me