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Do you have Tokophobia? We investigate a very real and anxiety-provoking condition

We discuss tokophobia, the extreme fear of pregnancy and birth that affects around 14 per cent of women in the UK

While tokophobia may sound like a Pokemon character, it is a very real phobia which can have devastating consequences for people who experience it, including relationship breakdowns, severe anxiety and avoidance of childbirth.

Harley Street hypnotherapist Adam Cox, also known as the phobia guru, specialises in working with phobias. Cox says, “Phobias are an unpleasant emotional reaction caused by a stimulus. Tokophobia is an autonomous fear of pregnancy or childbirth, which is normally a consequence of hearing distressing painful labour stories as a child or due to family members also having the fear.”

The media scrutiny around celebrity pregnancies can make it next to impossible to avoid distressing triggers for people who suffer with this type of phobia, and Cox has found the hype around Meghan’s and Harry’s first child to be particularly problematic for tokophobia sufferers.

“Since this is Meghan’s and Harry’s first child, there has been heightened media exposure as opposed to if it was the birth of their second or third child”, says Cox. “For suffers of tokophobia, pregnancy, and in particular childbirth, are highly sensitised topics and induce unwanted thoughts or memories.

“For most tokophobics, the main source of their anxiety is triggered by the concept of childbirth. The intense media coverage about Meghan Markle encourages tokophobics to think about bearing a child, which is exceptionally distressing and can induce panic attacks."

The affects of tokophobia are not solely contained to attacks of fear, anxiety and panic in the moment. Cox explains that this phobia can often have far-reaching knock on effects for sufferers: “The implications of this phobia can cause women to become serial daters and avoid committed, long term relationships. They also, very early on in a relationship, communicate the desire of never wanting to have children.

“Most female tokophobia suffers are exceptionally secretive and ashamed about their condition, due to women being stereotypically identified as maternal, caring and nurturing figures.”

Tokophobia is more common that you may think, affecting seven in every 50 women. So, if this is a fear that resonates with you, what can be done to overcome it?

Cox is keen to reassure people that tokophobia, as with all phobias, can be effectively addressed: “All phobias can be crippling, but, with the help of a professional, they can be overcome and conquered. The good news is that, no matter how severe the phobia is, psychological tools such as hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) can eliminate a phobia in just one or two sessions.

“As a hypnotherapist based in Harley Street, many people aren’t able to afford my therapy. To make my services accessible, I’m currently offering a free video download that will give women tips and resources to make immediate progress and improvement on their fears or phobias, when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.”

Key signs to look out for

Avoidance: They never talk about pregnancy or childbirth and will avoid baby showers or conversations surrounding future children.
Disinterest: They are not interested in celebrity pregnancies and will shut down or deflect a conversation about babies or pregnancy, even from a close friend or family member.
Defensiveness: They will become defensive when asked about future children even if they are in a long term, committed relationship.
Anxiety: They show signs of anxiety when the topic of pregnancy is discussed and will often leave the room if a TV show or movie is showing a childbirth scene.

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