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Birth terror that can make mums choose abortion.

THOUSANDS of women may be suffering from a little-recognised psychological condition which makes them terrified of giving birth.

Psychiatrists at the Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital have carried out the first major British study of tokophobia - a word deriving from the Greek words for 'childbirth' and 'fear'.

Although most pregnant women experience worries about labour, some are so frightened that they even resort to having abortions.

Professors Ian Brockington and Kristina Hofberg interviewed 26 Midland women, referred by obstetricians, over a two-year period.

Their findings have revealed that there is an urgent need for a national study into what they believe to be a widespread and chronic condition. In the Birmingham study, all 26 women had developed a dread of giving birth and yet had become pregnant.

The condition causes women to become morbidly afraid of childbirth, to the extent that it is either avoided altogether or causes serious complications in pregnancy.

Two women in the study were so afraid of giving birth that they had abortions, 10 women had their babies and then asked to be sterilised, five had suffered sexual abuse leading to tokophobia and 11 opted for Caesarean sections.

Three developed post-natal depression after natural births and two showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Professor Ian Brockington believes tokophobia is a largely unrecognised condition.

"Very little has been written about it and it is not widely known," he said, "but for the women involved it can be a terrible ordeal.

"Some opt for abortion or sterilisation, others become so anxious that they develop pre-natal depression and even severe morning sickness.

"Tokophobia is a treatable condition if identified by health professionals early enough.

"Obstetricians need to realise how serious these women's fears can be.

"Effective treatment with antidepressants, or just being able to talk fears through, can result in happy outcomes to pregnancies but, if not picked up, the results can be horrendous."

Any woman needing information about tokophobia should contact the mother and baby unit at Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital on 678 2195.
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Author:Louise_palfreyman@mrncouk, Louise Palfreyman
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 16, 2000
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