I am terrified about giving birth. What can I do about it?

Most women, particularly first time mothers, feel worried or scared about giving birth but for some the fear is much greater.

Fear of birth is an understandable concern, given that it will be a completely new experience and you will wonder how you will cope with the pain.

For a small amount of women however, this fear is so great that it affects their pregnancy and birth choices. This is referred to as tokophobia. It can happen in a first or following pregnancy. When it starts in a following pregnancy the cause can be a traumatic first labour and birth experience.

If you feel this level of terror you should tell your midwife or doctor how you feel. They should give you the chance to talk to a healthcare professional who has experience in giving support around mental health in pregnancy.

You should get advice on how to cope with the feelings of fear, and they should discuss options for birth that may help with any fears you have. These options, caesarean section for example, may be influenced by the policy in the hospital where you are giving birth (if you are giving birth in a hospital).

Find out more about fear of childbirth

Other resources


  1. NICE (2014) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical and service management guidance, clinical guideline 192, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.  London, P 4: Available at: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192, p36
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  • Mother and newborn baby resting.

    Is it normal to be so worried about giving birth?

    The thought of giving birth can be scary, especially if other women have been telling you about what it was like for them or you’ve been reading forums with gory stories. Remember that people are more likely to post if they’ve had a dramatic experience.

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    Tokophobia - Julie's story

    I always knew I would struggle being pregnant because I have a massive fear of childbirth.

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    Most pregnant women have some anxieties about how they will cope with childbirth, but for some women it causes extreme distress.

Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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