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Tokophobia: The Fear Of Delivery

6 min read

Delivery Fear
When a woman thinks of baby and birth, the first thing that gets on her nerves in probably ‘pain’. Though many women around you would have gone through childbirth, yet some apprehension and doubts over delivering a baby would always be there – and that is perfectly normal. But if this apprehension is taking the best from you, and the delivery fear is intense, this could actually affect the process of labor. Studies have proved that women who suffer from intense fear of childbirth are more likely to have complicated deliveries. If childbirth fear is bothering you more than it should, this article will help ease that. Read on!

What Is Delivery Fear?

Tokophobia. Yes, there is a name for it. Around 3%-8% of women are known to have an acute fear of delivery. This is more common among first time mothers, but even second-timers can also have extreme panic attacks especially if the previous childbirth was a complicated one. A good 13% women delay their pregnancies for fear of labor and childbirth; while 6% totally succumb to the fear.

Do I Have Tokophobia?

Now, tokophobia is an extreme condition – it is much more than the usual “anxiety” all pregnant women feel. It is considered a psychological disorder that is usually linked with a fear of pain in general and a history of anxiety and depression.
While your fear might not be so devastating, it is still very common to have anxiety attacks as the due date approaches. So whether your panicky feeling is full-blown or normal, it is important to get over it to have a positive and stress-free pregnancy and delivery.

What Causes Fear Of Labor and Delivery?
    • Imagination: If you are a first time mother, your imagination might run wild in terms of the labor pain, from the stories you have heard all your life and the screams the ladies give when they push out the child in TV and movies
    • Experience: If your previous delivery was hard and painful, you might fear that the same thing can happen again. If your previous delivery was smooth, then you might fear that your luck might not be repeated


  • Horror birth stories from well-meaning friends: From the moment you announced your pregnancy, people have been telling you birth stories, often horror ones with long and painful labors
  • Other phobias: It is very common to have a fear of blood, injury, injection or hospitals in general. Since pregnancy will make you face all these, the smaller fears could snowball into a much bigger fear
  • Antenatal depression: Sometimes pregnancy can be a difficult experience, and you may have been in the gulf of antenatal depression. In such a case, this can affect your sensibilities and develop undue fear
  • Trauma: Abuse, a bad childhood, or any other trauma may affect you when you are about to have a baby
Top 5 Delivery Fears
    1. Will I reach the hospital in time? Even if the hospital is about an hours drive, you will still make it. Average labor lasts for around 8 hours, so you will reach the hospital well within time. Moreover, before the baby actually pops out, there will be plenty of signals that will make you reach out the hospital. Read about them an you will find yourself prepared

Reaching the hospital

    1. Will I be able to handle the pain? If you are terrified and scared of the pain, just remember that your body has been designed to ‘take the pain’. When the labor is at its prime, your endorphins and your body will take over you. You can always opt for the epidural and learning pain management techniques before the delivery would do a lot good
    2. Will I have complications? If you are in the fear of having life-endangering complications, or are imagining yourself or the baby to die, put your faith in the doctor and the hospital. Technology has developed so much and it is only in rare cases that such unfortunate things happen. The causes of such deaths would be antenatal issues or poor medical care- we are sure you’d taken care of that already
    3. Will I be able to take the epidural? So you may have decided to opt for the epidural when the pain goes too much to endure. Fair enough, but then you hear about this big needle going in the spine and you are scared to death. Relax. Most mothers will tell you that compared to the labor pain you are in, you’d hardly notice it going down in the back and the doctor will also apply some antiseptic on the area to make it numb. The only point to remember is not to ask anyone how it looks. Focus on the priority here

Fear of epidural

  1. Will I be able to handle the tearing and stitches? Tearing is, infact, quite likely to happen during childbirth, especially during vaginal delivery. In all likelihood, you will either have a first-degree tears (superficial) or second-degree tears (tear is deep and reaches up to the muscles). Now first degree tears require very few stitches, while you may be bothered a bit by second degree tears. The third and fourth degree tears happen rarely, so give it a rest
5 Tips To Get Rid Of Delivery Fear

Here are five things you can do to fight the fear.

    1. Educate yourself: Fear of the unknown is the worst kind, so learn about labor and delivery. You could talk to your obstetrician, take ante-natal classes (ask your hospital about it, they would generally have tie-ups) or read about it from well-known medical websites. Please refrain from talking to your friends or reading random materials online – it might give you more anxiety than relief.
      If you are really a control freak, you can also educate yourself on things that can go wrong during a delivery and what to do about it. Knowing what to expect, and how to deal with challenges, will make you more confident and positive towards the whole process

Educate yourself

    1. Address your concerns: Write down top 10 things that worry you. And discuss that with your gynecologist. Write down action items on how to deal with each of those 10 items. For example:
      • Tearing: Do kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. Learn about perineal massage
      • Birth defects: Understand that statistics is with you as majority of children (>97%) do not have any major defects and are born healthy
      • Loss of control and familiarity: Get a tour of the hospital. Some hospitals will even let you see the birthing rooms. Familiarize yourself with the nursing staff. Find out your husband can stay with you during the delivery. Understand in detail what you need to do if you suddenly experience pain before due date
    2. Get ready for the new role: Think medium term and not short term. Rather than worrying about delivery, engage yourself in positive thoughts on your new role. Decide on names, plan the nursery and shop for infant clothes. More positive and excited you can get, lesser will be the fear and better will be the delivery
    3. Get support: Tell others close to you how you feel. Get support from supportive people whom you are sure would not mock your fear. Surround yourself with positive, understanding and helpful people. Go for peaceful walks with your loved ones and go for breathing exercises and prenatal yoga together

Get familiar with the hospital

  1. Research your options: If your fear is still uncontrollable, and it is costing you sleep and normalcy, discuss different birthing options and pain control techniques with your doctor. Research on the pros and cons of all options and take an informed decision

And lastly, there is absolutely no shame if you are scared or worried about the delivery. You, your body and pregnancy is not like anybody else’s. So there is no reason why you should relive someone else’s experience, good or bad. So next time someone tells you “so many women go through it, why are you whining about it”, relax and take a higher road. You have got this under control.
A side note here. Choose your gynecologist wisely. If you think that he/she is too busy to talk to you at length or if you do not feel comfortable around him/her, you might want to look at other options. Your gynecologist is your partner in this life changing step and you need that person to be approachable, trustworthy and supportive.
Keep calm and have a happy delivery!

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