Tokophobia: an unreasoning dread of childbirth. A series of 26 cases

Br J Psychiatry. 2000 Jan:176:83-5. doi: 10.1192/bjp.176.1.83.


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.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual
  • Depressive Disorder
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic