Up to 20% of pregnant women suffer from fear of childbirth, but this type of severe anxiety can also affect co-parents.
The upcoming delivery will inevitably be a big event in your life. Nervousness or unrest are normal feelings, but some pregnant women experience high levels of anxiety and can develop a more serious condition called fear of childbirth (FOC). This can range from mild to severe anxiety, the latter sometimes being referred to as tokophobia.1
FOC and tokophobia has been shown to affect about 5-20% of all pregnant women, depending on how it is measured.2 However, it is important to know that neither FOC nor tokophobia are feelings limited to those giving birth. Also, co-parents can suffer from anxiety and fear related to childbirth. Research in this area is still limited, but estimations say that as many as 1 out of 10 partners may suffer from FOC.3
Traumatic events in the past, fear of not being in control and fear of pain have been shown to be associated with FOC.2 Some women are also afraid that their body might not be strong enough to give birth.4
What can you do if you are pregnant and feel anxiety or fear when thinking of the delivery? Research suggests several ways in which anxiety can be relieved: the first and most important step is to talk to your midwife to get accurate information about the delivery process.1 Sharing your fears with a knowledgeable professional might also be helpful, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. At many hospitals there are specialized centers for those who suffer from FOC.1
Next time you meet your midwife, share your feelings and thoughts. You are far from alone, and there is help available!
Striebich S, Mattern E, Ayerle GM. Support for pregnant women identified with fear of childbirth (FOC)/tokophobia – A systematic review of approaches and interventions. Midwifery. 2018 Jun;61:97–115.
Nilsson C, Hessman E, Sjöblom H, Dencker A, Jangsten E, Mollberg M, et al. Definitions, measurements and prevalence of fear of childbirth: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Jan 12;18:28.
Eriksson C, Westman G, Hamberg K. Experiential factors associated with childbirth-related fear in Swedish women and men: A population based study. J Psychosom Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Mar;26(1):63–72.
Slade P, Balling K, Sheen K, Houghton G. Establishing a valid construct of fear of childbirth: findings from in-depth interviews with women and midwives. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Mar 18;19(1):96.
Picture taken from: https://www.pexels.com/nl-nl/foto/2-vrouwen-staan-naast-witte-muur-5853660/