Tommy's PregnancyHub

Is it normal to be so worried about giving birth?

It’s natural to be a bit anxious about giving birth. But if you’re so worried that you don’t want to do it, it’s important to ask for help.

Being anxious about giving birth is very common. Childbirth is a major life event, so don’t be hard on yourself for having these feelings.

Remember that you’re not going to be facing this alone. You'll have a midwife who will be there to support you and look after you. They have lots of experience of helping women through labour and birth and can also offer you pain relief in small or larger doses, depending on how you feel.

You may find it helpful to:

  • tell your midwife how you feel as they may be able to reassure you
  • talk to someone you trust such as your partner, friend or family member
  • start thinking about how you want to give birth and make a birth plan – this can help you feel more organised and in control
  • find a local antenatal class – this will give you the opportunity to meet people in a similar situation and find out more about what happens in labour
  • try hypnobirthing, which may help you relax
  • try our tips for improving mental wellbeing in pregnancy to reduce stress
  • ask people not to share their birth stories with you if you don’t find it helpful
  • find out more about positive things to prepare for labour
  • choose a birth partner who knows how to keep you calm and reassure you
  • avoid reading women’s stories about dramatic deliveries online – remember that women are much less likely to share stories about straightforward labours.

Tokophobia

It is rare, but some women are so afraid of giving birth that they don’t want to go through with it, even if they really want to have the baby. This is called tokophobia and it can happen in any pregnancy. A severe fear of childbirth may also affect their decision on how to give birth to their baby.  

Women with a severe fear of childbirth often have depression or anxiety too.

It can be difficult for other people to understand how someone can be so frightened about something they see as ‘so natural’. But tokophobia is a mental health condition and women who have it need treatment and support.

Some women have a severe fear of childbirth because they have had a traumatic birth experience. In this case, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a different condition to tokophobia and needs different treatment.

What should I do if I’m afraid of childbirth?

Tell your midwife or doctor how you feel, as early in your pregnancy as possible. They may be able to reassure you. Remember, anxiety is a mental health condition and not a sign of weakness, something that will go away on its own or that you should just ‘get over’. Your midwife or doctor will not judge you for having these feelings and will focus on getting the right care and support for you.

If your anxiety is severe, you should be referred to a mental health specialist for pregnant women. Ideally, this should be someone with experience of childbirth fears.

Find out more about fear of childbirth.

Hofberg K and Ward M R (2003) Fear of pregnancy and childbirth Postgraduate Medical Journal 2003;79:505-510 doi:10.1136/pmj.79.935.50 https://pmj.bmj.com/content/79/935/505

Review dates

Last reviewed: 12 June, 2019
Next review: 12 June, 2022