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From fear to maternity

02 March 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 3


Much has been writen in recent literature about tocophobia and fear of birth. But, as Yana Richens writes, to further research, we first need to establish universally accepted definitions

Fear of birth is becoming increasingly recognised as a clinical issue that can have profound effects on the mother and her experience of pregnancy and birth. Failure to identify women with fear of birth could lead to them feeling isolated and unsupported, and affect their psychological health and the health of their baby. There is, however, much confusion around terminology and no consensus on what constitutes fear (Richens, 2016), which makes it very difficult when attempting to assess prevalence and incidence of fear of birth or tocophobia. Following a recent episode of Call the Midwife, there was a flurry of tweets on social media regarding the case of the woman depicted in the programme. These tweets confirmed the lack of understanding of fear of birth, tocophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The episode showed a woman having her second baby. This was not a planned pregnancy, and it became clear that she did not want to birth this baby, due to a previous traumatic forceps birth that resulted in flashbacks. The trauma and effects of the first birth were so severe that the woman had considered a termination. The question raised was, does this woman have secondary tocophobia, or PTSD?

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