Although there are no data for the United States, up to 14 percent of women worldwide are estimated to be tokophobic.
The abnormal fear of childbearing known as tokophobia is different from the normal concerns some women may have about giving birth or being pregnant. The disorder can interfere with daily life, making it difficult to engage with others and disrupting regular sleep cycles.
Many women turn to self-management of the disease despite the fact that psychiatric treatment that concentrates on prior traumas can be helpful. Some people use numerous forms of contraception at once, such as mixing intrauterine devices with oral birth control, whereas others seek sterilisation.
Leila Frodsham, MbChB, of King’s College London, who has studied tokophobia, says that some women have chosen to avoid having children by seeking abortions or even making suicide attempts.
The fear of childbirth has hardly ever been discussed in American literature, despite the fact that the problem has been researched abroad, particularly in Europe. A serious aversion to childbirth can be fostered, according to Lee Roosevelt, PhD, a nurse and midwife who is also a co-author of the study, if fear of the healthcare system is combined with worry about losing bodily autonomy. She has seen that clinicians frequently treat these people insensitively. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor researchers’ 2016 study of 22 tokophobic women was one of the few scientific studies on the disease conducted in this country.
“I think some clinicians struggle to understand how much this condition affects women. There isn’t training in it, and I’d like to see it discussed more,” Frodsham says.
Tokophobia often manifests in two ways: first, in women who have never given birth, and second, in women who have already had a terrible birth experience.
Tokophobia was added to the International Classification of Diseases‘ list of diagnostic codes in 2018. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is used by doctors in the U.S. Without this classification, some medical professionals are more likely than others to identify tokophobia, according to Frodsham.
Frodsham claims to have treated hundreds of people who sought support for their pregnancy-related fears. Many of these ladies are unaware that they could be suffering from a mental health issue that would be helped by receiving therapy.
While medication is not necessary for tokophobia in women, they would benefit from other therapy including desensitisation, biobehavioral methods, or combinations of those. According to Roosevelt, having access to doulas, midwives, or therapists skilled in trauma counselling can give women a voice in their care.