The Fear of Pregnancy and Childbirth: Overcoming Tokophobia

The Fear of Pregnancy and Childbirth: My Battle with Tokophobia
One of only three pictures that exist of my bump and I, taken on the babymoon.

The Fear

For some, it’s snakes or spiders. For others, it’s heights, flying, or enclosed spaces.

For me, it was pregnant bellies and childbirth.

The idea of touching a friend or relative’s bump did not fill me with warmth and wonder.

It made me queasy.

And the thought of the actual birth part?

Gawd, that made me want to cross my legs.


Like most phobias, curious and common, there’s a term and Tokophobia is the pathological fear of pregnancy/and or childbirth. It can be primary {women who have no experience of pregnancy}, or secondary {women who have often had a traumatic birth experience}.

Mine, inexplicably, fell into the former.

Blergh Baby Bumps

The Fear of Pregnancy and Childbirth: My Battle with TokophobiaI can’t pinpoint exactly when or why {it can often be attributed to watching something graphic onscreen as a youngster or having a mother or relative who have passed on their own negative feelings about birth; neither of those were true in my case}. But somewhere around my late teens, this phobia of pregnant bellies began. For a period of time in the beginning, I also didn’t like anyone touching my own stomach, nor did I want to touch it myself.

Alongside this strange aversion came a slightly more fathomable fear of childbirth. This wasn’t a natural apprehension that many women feel, however. The prospect of myself, or anyone else, birthing a child, truly sickened me. But with no inclination or desire to have a baby at that stage of my life, it wasn’t a significant burden.

Fast forward a decade or so, and the dynamics had changed. I was married. The years were swiftly passing. My husband was keen for a child, and I too, had imagined having a family one day.

So, putting any misgivings to the side, I got pregnant.   

We found out we were expecting in Venice; halting my Prosecco consumption and requiring a virgin Bellini at the famous Harry’s Bar.

With Child

For some women with Tokophobia, the fear is too much and they will avoid pregnancy entirely. Others can be so consumed by the psychological horror of childbirth that they may consider terminating one.

For myself, I decided early on, the only way that I would get me through nine months of baby carrying, was pretending there wasn’t one inside of me.

I wasn’t in complete denial. It was a planned. I took good care of myself, consumed the things I should, and avoided things I shouldn’t. I attended regular check-ups, went to neonatal classes, walked lots, and felt very un-pregnant.

I was one of those fortunate expectant moms who glided through 40-plus weeks, escaping the nausea, tiredness, heartburn, hypertension, bloating, stretch marks and other accompaniments of pregnancy. Perhaps their absence didn’t help in making the whole thing feel any more real.

I didn’t decorate a nursery {we were in a rental at the time} or buy many baby things.    

Me being pregnant was put in a small box hidden away in the back of my brain. Because, I feared if I thought about it too much, I would be racked with anxiety. And there was no going back.

I was locked into this journey.


My midsection quietly grew, concealed for the most part under a loose-fitting top or sweater. To my surprise, I began to like my neat little bump, although I still refused to fully recognize there was a baby inside {and that at some point it would need to come out}.

The fear my belly button would ‘pop’ and do that protruding thing, in what I had long considered the pinnacle of yuckiness, also remained.

I got to 37 weeks.

And then it happened.

But it was O-K.

Like my pregnant stomach, I came to realize it wasn’t as ‘offensive’ as my brain had once claimed it to be. 

The birth was now looming, however. And that was a whole other ball game.    

Au Naturale

Back in the UK, we have the National Health Service rather than the insurance-based system here in the states. C-sections are costly, so unless you’ve had one previously, or there is some underlying complication; the consensus is you ‘push’.

There’s no discussion with your gynecologist which ‘avenue’ you would like to pursue. Heck, there is no gynecologist {only complex pregnancies warrant any kind of a specialist other than a midwife}.

Unless a C-section is required medically, the prising metal mouth of forceps fail, or it’s an emergency, that baby is coming out au naturale. 

A Daunting Delivery

Women tend to fear childbirth because of the pain factor. For me, the pain was a concern, but I think my greatest apprehension lay in the loss of control – having to surrender your body entirely to the experience. And ultimately, how undignified the whole process was likely to be.

Words like ‘perineum massage’, ‘dilating’, ‘crowning’ and ‘ring of fire’ were not my friends.

Stories of midwifes using nets to scoop out various ‘debris’ and rogue, floating objects during water births, were comical. But also HORRIFYING.

Getting Over Tokophobia

The Fear of Pregnancy and Childbirth: My Battle with Tokophobia

Today, I have a four-year-old son and have not been pregnant or given birth since.

But that’s a choice, not because of Tokophobia.

The birth was difficult in parts, {I’ll spare you the details}, but it wasn’t utterly horrendous {praise be the epidural}, particularly when compared with several friends who were left so traumatized by baby number one that they opted for an elected c-section for baby number two.

Those nine months in 2016/17 essentially cured my Tokophobia.

Minus naval pops.

To me – they will always be gross.

…and now


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Vhairi Jane M
Looking for another taste of expat life, Vhairi M. relocated from Scotland to the cusp of the Woodlands in June 2019 with her oil-and-gas-finance-Excel-loving-husband, rambunctious son, Innes {August 2017}, and equally rambunctious, cocker spaniel, Luna. Prior to this latest international adventure, the pair lived in the other-worldly desert oasis of Dubai for several years. Whilst there, Vhairi worked on travel, food, and lifestyle magazines, which saw her eating witchetty grubs in the Australian outback, cooking breakfast with Gordon Ramsay, and sipping champagne at Prince Harry and Prince William’s {circa-Meghan} annual charity polo match. Nowadays, she spends much of her time writing children’s books. In 2020, Vhairi published a chapter book {Hamish Montgomery and the Cursed Claymore}, and a picture book {Great Auntie Betty and the Serengeti}, and looks forward to releasing more kidlit in the near future. Keep up to date with all her books news @vhairijanemoir on Instagram and via her website


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