The term ‘Tocophobia’ (or Tokophobia) refers to a severe fear of childbirth and/or pregnancy. This is sometimes also called severe Childbirth Anxiety (CA) or Fear of Childbirth (FOC). The word ‘Tokophobia’ originated from Greek ‘tokos’ meaning childbirth and ‘phobia’ meaning intense fear. Although often used in the context of pregnant women, the condition also occurs in non-pregnant women and in men.
It is perfectly normal to have some fear and concerns regarding pregnancy and childbirth, especially among first-time mothers. In fact, a certain amount of fear may have a positive effect, as this may prompt women to seek advice and maternity care.
Dr. Raja Gangopadhyay has written an article on the subject.
Research has shown that about 80% of pregnant women could have such fear and worries (6). Most women can cope themselves, sometimes just with reassurance and support from their pregnancy care providers.
However, women with tocophobia have an extreme and intense fear and anxiety (often associated with phobia symptoms such as panic attacks, insomnia, and nightmares) that they need specialist care and would like to avoid childbirth (although very often they would like to become a mother). Therefore, this is a distinct clinical condition.
There is no internationally agreed clinical definition of tocophobia, therefore the prevalence varies in different studies depending on the criteria used. Although the previously reported incidence is about 6-10% of women during pregnancy a recent scientific paper has indicated that this could be as high as 14% pregnant women and seems to be on the increase since the year 2000.