Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. In most cases, an expectant mother wants to tell anyone and everyone about her baby. Watching the faces of family, friends and even colleagues light up is life affirming. To be honest though, pregnancy is not all about smiles and sweet anticipation. There are many women who have strong fears about pregnancy.
There are those who actually have an overwhelming fear of pregnancy and although they might want children, they avoid conception for various reasons. Some of these women are diagnosed with Tokophobia. This word has been defined as, “intense anxiety and/or fear of pregnancy and childbirth.” In medical terms, Tokophobia has two classifications: primary or secondary. Someone who has primary Tokophobia is a woman who is fearful of childbirth and has never experienced pregnancy. Secondary Tokophobia is someone who develops a fear of childbirth after an unpleasant event related to a previous pregnancy.
According to a study in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal, up to 13 percent of non-pregnant women experience a fear of pregnancy and childbirth that is strong enough to dissuade them from ever trying to conceive. There are on the other hand, a lot of women who have anxiety related to their feelings about childbirth, but they still want and do get pregnant.
Medical experts say that many people who suffer pregnancy fears are somewhat conditioned to be afraid. For example, they may have been exposed to negative stories about childbirth while they were growing up or perhaps they saw a graphic movie about childbirth at too young an age. No matter what the case, these fears are real.
Here we look at the ultimate pregnancy fears. Some may sound familiar or reasonably, while others may surprise you.
15 Birth Defects
Every parent wants the best for their children and that begins with health. None of us wants our children to suffer physical pain or have a difficult life. Birth defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate, heart defects, abnormal limbs, and neural tube defects, such as spina bifida are a reality. There are women who fear birth defects before they even get pregnant and then there are those who worry throughout their pregnancy that something could be horribly wrong with their baby. These women are encouraged to put things in perspective. Research shows that 97 percent of every 100 babies born in the United States are born without any major birth defects. This means the worried women are expending a lot of mental energy for something that has just a 3 percent risk. It is also important to remember that many defects, including club foot, webbed toes and heart problems turn out to be minor, as well as treatable.
We are much more fortunate than our ancestors when it comes to childbirth and the well being of our unborn babies. Modern technology gives us high-resolution ultrasounds that can check for abnormalities. Having said this, it is important for any pregnant woman to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and certain medications. Additionally, it’s important to take any supplements that a doctor prescribes.
14 Never Losing Weight
There is no denying that pregnancy can lead to weight gain, but some people are fearful of getting pregnant because they worry about what they will look like after the baby arrives. They don’t want to lose their figure. The truth is that this is something women do have some control over. If a woman is a healthy weight for her height going into pregnancy, then she should gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds during the pregnancy. Any more weight could increase the chances of gestational diabetes, as well as stretch marks. In 2015 a U.S government report found that 47 percent of American mothers gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. Part of the problem is that some people believe pregnancy is a license to go crazy with their diet – eating extra portions and caving to every single craving. It’s all about the old adage, “eating for two”. While having a sweet treat or a bag of chips once-in-a-while is okay, using pregnancy as an excuse to overeat isn’t a good idea, and of course is something a woman does have control over.
Those who have fears about weight gain should also know that breastfeeding burns extra calories. It is estimated that up to 850 calories a day can get burned off just by breast feeding. Now, breastfeeding can also make a person hungrier so care must to taken when it comes to cravings and/or eating simple carbohydrates if you want to maintain a healthy weight.
National statistics suggest that about 15 percent of pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage. That number is about 5 percent in Canada. Most of the miscarriages in both countries tend to happen within the first 6 to 7 weeks of pregnancy. Women of child bearing age who are healthy have a good chance of carrying their baby full-term. Obstetricians report that there is a much higher risk of miscarriage among older women who get pregnant; for instance women between the ages of 40 and 44. Doctors also insist that by the time a woman sees a heartbeat on an ultrasound, the chance of having a miscarriage drops to less than 5 percent.
If a miscarriage were to happen, it is usually a reminder that there is an abnormality – your body is telling you that something just isn’t right. Recent studies suggest that lifestyle factors can prevent miscarriage, including consuming less caffeine and avoiding certain infections, as well as gum disease.
12 Giving Birth Anywhere
We have all heard the stories about women having babies unexpectedly in places other than the hospital or their own homes. Trains, buses, and planes are some examples. There are even some odd places where ladies have had their babies. For example, one New Jersey woman stopped into her local McDonald’s one day to feed a craving and ended up giving birth in the restroom. A woman in Huntington Beach got quite a surprise when she went into labour and gave birth to her baby in a library. Of course, there is the story of a pregnant New Yorker who was trying desperately to get to the hospital back in 2008 to have her baby, but instead ended up having the baby on a subway platform. Sure, this could happen, but the reality is, it is rare. There are some women, who despite reassurances from their doctors, will not venture far from home in the last 3 months of pregnancy for fear they may suddenly give birth in an unusual location.
11 Labour Pain
Well, we can’t say that it doesn’t hurt, but some women are very fearful of any pain. For these women the good news is that there are ways to lesson pain during delivery. Sure, you can opt for medication, but there are other ways to reduce discomfort and the anxiety that surrounds this feeling. For example, some people choose labouring in a tub of water, while changing positions and practicing relaxation techniques. Birthing coaches or a doula can also be helpful when it comes to a natural birth. In most cases, doctors ague that it is the unknown that is causing the fear so it is best to learn as much as possible before giving birth. When you know exactly what is causing a particular type of pain, it makes it easier to address. One example of this is anxiety. It can lead to tension during childbirth, which can make it more difficult to breathe and thus makes the pain worse. Often times, taking a Lamaze class or having a birthing plan helps put fears to rest.
10 Cord Wrapping Around Baby’s Neck
Who hasn’t heard stories about a baby who had an umbilical cord wrapped around his/her neck? Yes, this happens during childbirth. The truth is, it is fairly common. Amniotic fluid should provide enough of a buffer between the cord and the baby, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Most medical experts will tell you that it is not something to “panic” about; that it is rare for a cord to be wrapped tight or for it to be wrapped multiple times and cause problems. In many situations, doctors will just loop the cord over the baby’s head as he or she is crowning and not bother mentioning it.
Babies receive oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord and don’t breathe on their own until after the birth. This is one of the reasons it is important to leave the cord attached for a minute or two following the birth. Obstetricians say fears about the umbilical cord should not prevent women from wanting to get pregnant.
9 Losing Oneself
There are many women who have no fear of conceiving, yet once they are pregnant anxiety kicks in. Some start to see towards the third trimester that they have many more demands in their life. They are trying to get the baby’s room ready, they are running around buying baby supplies, they are attending childbirth classes, and are trying to keep up with doctor’s appointments. It hits them that they have too much on their plate and they start to wonder if they will completely lose themselves once the baby arrives. While it is perfectly natural to worry about adding another person to a busy life, it is important to stand back and take a look at the mother’s who have survived and thrived for years.
As many psychologists point out, it just takes a little planning for a new mother to maintain some of the activities she has always enjoyed. Sure, life is going to change, but it doesn’t have to change to the point where a woman has zero time for herself. Some women find that childbirth opens more doors as opposed to closing them. They meet other mothers and discover things about themselves, including new interests, that they never realized before.
8 Impact Of Stress
Everyone has some level of stress at certain points in their life. One of the problems for people who fear pregnancy is too much stress. They are afraid that because they have a stressful life, it will hurt the baby. Everyday stress such as driving through rush hour traffic, having to work late or having an argument with a friend isn’t likely to pose a big risk to an unborn child. Experts say that major stress, which is often accompanied by depression, may increase the risk of premature delivery or having a low-birth-weight baby. Some psychologists also say it could lead to behavioral issues for the child. If stress is taking over a woman’s life and she is finding it difficult to cope, she should seek help because pregnant or not, major stress is not healthy from a physical or mental perspective. Talking to a family doctor about techniques and resources to help deal with stress is a good first step.
7 Baby Won’t Like Me
Some of the latest research on babies and their relationship to their parents indicates that a strong emotional bond between mother and baby may help prevent diseases and boost immunity. This is good news as most new parents feel an instant connection with their newborn. Not everyone is confident in the parent/child bond though. Some women who are thinking of having a baby or who do conceive then start to worry about whether or not their baby will even like them. There are many women who insist that kids just don’t take to them or that whenever they pick up a friend or relative’s baby, that baby cries. It is possible for some babies to be rather fussy in the first weeks or even months after they come into the world, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that baby doesn’t like his or her mother or father. For some babies it just takes longer to adjust to the many sights, sounds and smells outside the womb. People who fear that their baby won’t like them should consider that baby will at some point be able to distinguish the difference between mom and others. For example, baby already knows mom’s voice because he/she started hearing it through fluids while still in the womb. A newborn’s sight can be a little fuzzy, but he/she will start to recognize mommy’s face. The same goes for smell.
6 Premature Birth
While some women fear all sorts of birth defects, others seem to be fixated on prematurity – they worry that their baby might come too early. As it turns out, the vast majority of babies born in both the United States and Canada are born after 37 weeks. Only 10 to 12 percent of babies are born preterm, which has the potential to increase health risks. There are certain factors that could increase a woman’s chances of having a premature baby, including being pregnant with multiples, having cervical or uterine abnormalities or having a previous premature delivery.
Most women who maintain a healthy weight, avoid alcohol and recreational drugs, as well as get good prenatal care are able to carry a baby to full-term. For those who are overwhelmed with fear of premature birth, it might be comforting to also know that the odds of a premature baby living and going on to be healthy are much higher today, thanks to modern medicine.
5 Bowel Movements
Changes in bowel function are really common during pregnancy, particularly in the first trimester. Some women find they are constipated, while others find they have loose stools or even diarrhea. According to a study by experts at Loyola Medicine in Illinois, three out of four pregnant women have issues with their bowels. Some women start to freak out every time they have to go to the washroom. These ladies are afraid that having a movement, especially in situations where constipation is the problem, will somehow hurt the unborn baby.
While doctors say this couldn’t be further from the truth, they do suggest if a pregnancy comes with constipation, that the mother-to-be discuss this with her doctor. Constipation can lead to hemorrhoids and/or anal tearing, which can be very uncomfortable. Hormones can have an affect on all sorts of bodily functions so if someone has either constipation or diarrhea while pregnant they should understand that it is normal and that they may simply need to adjust their diet while they are carrying a baby.
It is no secret the C-sections are on the rise in the United States. In recent years there has been a lot of debate not only in the U.S, but all around the world when it comes to the issue of C-section births. There are a number of reasons a woman could end up having a caesarean section after entering hospital with full intentions of having a vaginal birth. The media coverage of the topic however, has given rise to concerns among some pregnant women who are fearful of C-sections. Some research seems to suggest that the number of caesarean procedures has jumped from 5 percent in the 70’s to percent to close to 30 percent today in the United States.
What we can tell you is that more women are asking for C-sections – women who don’t necessarily need one. Why? Well, because some women want more control over when they give birth. Another factor influencing the numbers is where you have a baby. Each hospital has different criteria for deeming a C-section necessary. For example, some hospitals consider very big babies automatic C-sections, while others don’t. There are other factors that women can discuss with their doctors. If a C-section is something a woman wants to avoid then she should make that clear to her physician well before going into labor.
3 Mothering Ability
It is not unusual for first-time mothers and fathers to leave a hospital with their newborn and ask each other, what if we are not good parents? Being a parent brings with it a great deal of responsibility. If a person is not a little nervous then it is probably not normal. However, there are those who feel paralyzed by a fear that they will be the worst parent on the planet. These people often avoid pregnancy for as long as possible. The fact is, there is no person on the planet that can be called a perfect mother or a perfect father. If you are concerned about parenting then it shows you care and you want to do a good job at caring and raising your little boy or girl. Psychotherapists say reading books, taking classes and talking with other mom’s who got past the fear, can be very helpful. It is also important to remember that you don’t have to be an expert in everything (potty training, school lunches etc.) to be a good parent.
2 Money On The Mind
Reports in the United States, Canada and Europe indicate the cost of raising a child is increasing. Even if you have health insurance, there are significant costs associated with bringing a baby into the world, including diapers, food, child-care, toys, bicycles, allowances, braces and of course, college. On the upside there are millions of couples who with a little careful planning, have managed to provide for their kids. It is true that finances may be tighter and new parents may not be able to eat out as much as they used to, go on vacations or keep purchasing designer clothes once the baby has arrived, but taking a close look at finances and consulting with a financial planner often puts a couple’s minds at ease. Experts do suggest if a new parent doesn't have life insurance, they should get it. While people don’t like to plan for tragedies, it does provide parents with peace-of-mind - knowing that the kids will be okay if for some reason they are no longer there.
1 Relationship Woes
Many couples of childbearing age say they are at a point where they are really enjoying time with their partner. They are free to come and go, plan vacations, and make their partner the center of their world. Adding a baby to the mix can be very frightening to some people. There are those who are just too afraid to put their relationship to the baby test. While babies definitely change life, it is ultimately up to a couple to determine if adding a child will make the relationship better or worse.
Relationship experts tell couples to make sure they know their partner well and take time to discuss the fear with their partner. There could be an ah ha moment where a woman realizes that her mate is eager and willing to move forward with a family or has ideas on how they can maintain a good relationship with a baby in the picture. The experts also add that even though it may not seem as romantic “penciling a partner in”, it is very important for couples to make time for each other after a baby comes into their lives.
Pregnancy does have risks but they are generally low. For healthy women the fear and worry are usually not warranted. To deal with anxiety and fear surrounding pregnancy one of the best approaches is to focus on evidence that contradicts what you are worrying about. Knowledge is power so the more a woman and her partner can learn about pregnancy and childbirth, the more likely both of them are to be less afraid.
Approximately four million babies are born each year in the United States and the majority of them are healthy, happy newborns. Many new mothers say that it is amazing how quickly they adjust to motherhood and how they “can’t imagine not being a mom”. Even those who once had fears admit later on that their lives feel much more meaningful as a result of giving birth.