Feeling anxious about giving birth is very common. Childbirth is a major life event, so do not be hard on yourself for having these feelings.
Remember, you are not going to be facing the labour alone. Your midwife will be there to support you and look after you. They have lots of experience in helping people through labour and birth. Your midwife can also offer you pain relief in small or larger doses, depending on how you feel.
You may find the following ideas helpful:
- Tell your midwife how you feel as they may well be able to reassure you.
- Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or loved one.
- Start thinking about how you want to give birth, and make a birth plan, which can help you feel more in control.
- Find a local antenatal class, which will give you the chance to meet people in a similar situation, as well as finding out more about what happens in labour.
- Try hypnobirthing, which may help you feel more relaxed about managing the pain of labour.
- Try our tips for improving mental wellbeing in pregnancy and handling stress.
- Ask people not to share their birth stories with you if you don’t find it helpful.
- Find out more about positive ways to prepare for labour.
- Choose a birth partner who knows how to keep you calm and comfort you.
- Avoid reading stories about births online – stories about simple labours are shared far less.
What is tokophobia?
Tokophobia is when someone is so afraid of giving birth that they do not want to go through with it, even though they really want to have their baby. It is rare for people to feel this strongly.
It can happen in any pregnancy, but a severe fear of childbirth is more likely to be felt by people who have depression or anxiety. Tokophobia may also affect a person's choice about how to give birth.
It can be hard for other people to fathom how someone can feel such fear about something they see as ‘so natural’. But tokophobia is a mental health condition, and people with it need treatment and non-judgemental support.
Some people have a severe fear of childbirth because they have had a traumatic birth experience in the past. They may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is a different condition from tokophobia and it 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 you can. Remember, anxiety is a mental health condition, not a sign of weakness. It is not 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. They will respect you for telling them and be relieved that they can focus on getting you the right care and support.
If your anxiety is severe, your midwife or doctor may well refer you to a pregnancy mental health specialist. This should be someone who is used to treating people with childbirth fears.
Find out more about fear of childbirth.