We make an effort to explain what is tokophobia – fear of childbirth.

There’s no two ways about it, whilst having a baby is an exciting time, the thought of actually giving birth isn’t likely to make any of us jump up and down for joy.

It hurts.  It’s scary. It isn’t pleasant.

However for most of us we are able to keep our fears and concerns in check, to focus on the end result and to have faith that the pain will be 100 per cent worth it and the memory will quickly fade.  However that isn’t the case for everyone….

Tokophobia is a pathological fear of pregnancy and can lead to avoidance of childbirth. It can be classified as primary or secondary.

Primary is morbid fear of childbirth in a woman, who has no previous experience of pregnancy.

Tokophobia is an extreme fear of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting women in one of two ways; primary tokophobia pre-dates pregnancy, whereas secondary tokophobia is the fear of pregnancy and childbirth following a previous traumatic delivery.

Tokophobia figures

There are no exact figures on its prevalence, but it is estimated that between 6 and 10% of women will suffer from the condition.

A certain degree of apprehension or worry around childbirth is not uncommon, with up to 80% of women reporting childbirth anxieties, but for some women a fear of birth can be so profound that they may avoid having children altogether, or seek a termination of an otherwise wanted pregnancy because they feel unable to go through labour.

Tokophobia is becoming much more widely recognised, and as a result women experiencing severe fears about pregnancy and birth need not suffer in silence.

Independent midwife Amber is well acquainted with the condition,

“This is certainly a real fear for some women that shouldn’t be ignored.  It’s becoming well recognised amongst health care professionals and so any woman suffering from tokophobia should speak to their care giver.  There’s plenty of support out there that can really help.  Women should be given the opportunity to discuss their fears or talk through a previous traumatic experience.  Full support and information about their choices should be given, including being able to speak to a perinatal mental health professional, or the right to an elective caesarean.”

For women suffering from tokophobia, it’s important to know help is available. At a time when everyone else is jumping for joy and overwhelmed with excitement, it can be a very lonely time.

Guidance from NICE has stated that women suffering from tokophobia should be given additional support and the opportunity to discuss their fears and feelings with healthcare professional with perinatal mental health expertise.

For some women, fears around childbirth may be linked to past experiences of not being in control or properly informed during labour, and women should feel able to discuss their previous experience and be given full support and information about their birth choices, including the right to an elective caesarean.

Women can also access the Tokophobia Support Network where women can share their thoughts, experiences and advice with other women who have been through a similar experience:


Thanks to Bpas for their collaboration on this feature.