Does Childbirth Fill You With Fear? A Midwife Shares 6 Tips For Managing Tokophobia
Anxiety around pregnancy and labour can be overwhelming – but there are things that can help
17 March 2019
All Credits: PA
Giving birth can be a daunting prospect for many women, but for some, the fear of labour can be severe and debilitating.
Known as ‘tokophobia’, an acute fear of childbirth can be triggered by a range of factors, such as a previous traumatic birthing experience or an underlying mental health issue, and in some cases it can develop out of the blue.
The NCT reports that about 20%-78% of women have fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth, with 13% saying their fear is strong enough to make them consider postponing pregnancy – or avoid having a child altogether.
Fear of childbirth can cause acute anxiety (iStock/PA)
It’s important to remember that changing hormones during pregnancy can have an impact too – so feelings of anxiety and worry that might start out mild could become worse for this reason. There’s no need to struggle on alone though and getting the right support and advice can make a world of difference.
Here, Layla Rumble, a midwife at The Portland Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK, hcahealthcare.co.uk), shares her top tips for managing fear and anxiety around childbirth…
Therapy can help you talk through your fears (iStock/PA)
Tokophobia can be a lot less debilitating with some practical therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on changing negative patterns of thinking. “A specialist will encourage you to talk about your fears or try to investigate what the root cause might be,” says Rumble. Typically, CBT will help you to notice problematic thinking styles, and devise steps and techniques you can employ in order to help change them.
2. Breathing Techniques
Breathing techniques are easy to learn and can be done anywhere (iStock/PA)
“Breathing techniques are a well-known method to reduce feelings of panic and worry,” says Rumble. Generally, these are easy to learn and involve inhaling and exhaling rhythmically, to calm the mind and body.
“Breathing physiologically reduces anxiety by supplying sufficient oxygen around the body, thus reducing heart rate,” explains Rumble. “Concentrating solely on breathing will divert the focus from what is causing the anxiety.
“During both pregnancy and childbirth, this can calm a mother’s nerves and reduce their chances of panic attacks.”
3. Antenatal Classes
Find a local antenatal class (iStock/PA)
6. Knowledge Is Power
Having an idea of what to expect can help you feel prepared (iStock/PA)
“My final tip is something I would impart to all mums-to-be, and especially those feeling anxious: Collect as much information as possible about childbirth,” says Rumble. “There are many classes, reading materials and informative videos about labour, which can help women understand what happens during childbirth and what options are available to them.
“If you’re worried, don’t hesitate to speak to your midwife or GP and ask for their advice and support during pregnancy.”