The number of women with a severe fear of giving birth has been rising since 2000. Picture: iStock
The number of women with a severe fear of giving birth has been rising since 2000. Picture: iStock

Online horror stories increasing ‘terror of childbirth’

ONLINE "horror stories" are contributing to a rise in the number of women with a pathological terror of childbirth­.

The condition - tocophobia - affects about 14 per cent of women and can be serious enough to prompt requests for Caesareans and abortions.

The number of women with a severe fear of giving birth has been rising globally since 2000, research suggests.

Catriona Jones, a lecturer in midwifery at the University of Hull in the UK who has studied tocophobia, believes social media is partly to blame for the phenomenon.

"You just have to Google 'childbirth' and you're met with a tsunami of horror stories," she said.

"If you go on to any of the (mum) forums there are women telling their stories of childbirth - 'Oh, it was terrible, it was a bloodbath, this and that happened.'

"That can be quite frightening for women to engage with and read about. I wouldn't say social media is leading women to be afraid of childbirth, but it plays a part."

Online stories are not entirely to blame, but academics believe they play a role. Picture: iStock
Online stories are not entirely to blame, but academics believe they play a role. Picture: iStock

Tocophobia falls on a wide spectrum and only the most severe cases are diagnosed as a medical condition, Ms Jones said.

Taking into account those who do not meet the clinical threshold for diagnosis, the proportion of women who experience it could be as high as 30 per cent, she said.

Treatments for tocophobia include cognitive behaviour therapy, one-to-one education sessions with midwives and being exposed to labour rooms or operating theatres "in a non-threatening way".

Julie Jomeen, a professor of midwifery, said: "It's a modern phenomenon - 200 years ago people accepted they might die from childbirth. Today we expect childbirth to be safe."



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