Background: Some women dread and avoid childbirth despite desperately wanting a baby. This is called tokophobia.
Aims: To classify tokophobia for the first time in the medical literature.
Method: Twenty-six women noted to have an unreasoning dread of childbirth were interviewed by the same psychiatrist, who was not the treating doctor. A qualitative analysis of these psychiatric interviews was performed.
Results: Phobic avoidance of pregnancy may date from adolescence (primary tokophobia), be secondary to a traumatic delivery (secondary tokophobia) or be a symptom of prenatal depression (tokophobia as a symptom of depression). Pregnant women with tokophobia who were refused their choice of delivery method suffered higher rates of psychological morbidity than those who achieved their desired delivery method.
Conclusions: Tokophobia is a specific and harrowing condition that needs acknowledging. Close liaison between the obstetrician and the psychiatrist in order to assess the balance between surgical and psychiatric morbidity is imperative with tokophobia.