Health conditions

Phobias – emotional health for new parents

What is a phobia?

When you have a baby, it is normal to feel some fear or anxiety. However, some women have a very specific fear, or phobia, related to having a baby. This might be an intense fear of the birth (tokophobia), fear of blood or fear of needles.

A phobia is a constant and exaggerated fear of an object or situation. The person knows their fear is unreasonable or extreme, and the phobia greatly impairs their daily life.

Contact, or even likely contact, with the object or situation creates intense anxiety and  can sometimes trigger a panic attack. Therefore, the object or situation is avoided or endured with much anxiety. A vicious cycle of avoidance and anxiety can develop.

Tokophobia

While 80 per cent of expectant parents have some fear of birth, tokophobia is a pathological fear of childbirth. If you have tokophobia you will feel severe anxiety and will attempt to avoid childbirth. Women with tokophobia may:

  • feel trapped
  • regret becoming pregnant or avoid pregnancy altogether
  • feel insecure, inferior or abnormal compared to other women
  • feel exposed or vulnerable
  • feel that others are not sympathetic about their fears
  • elect to have a caesarean section.

Blood and needle phobia

The fear of blood (haemophobia) or needles often manifest as a rapid increase in heartbeat and blood pressure followed by a sudden drop in both, which can lead to fainting. Other symptoms may include sweating, going pale, nausea and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Many situations can be frightening if you have a blood or needle phobia. These might include:

  • blood tests
  • needles used for IV fluids, medication and pain relief during the labour
  • blood present during the birth itself.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician, child health nurse or midwife
  • Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Phone the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436
  • Phone the Mental Health Emergency Response Line – Perth metro 1300 55 788 or Peel 1800 676 822
  • Phone Rural Link, an after-hours mental health phone service for rural communities, on 1800 552 002
  • Phone the Post and Antenatal Depression Association helpline on 1300 726 306 (9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday)
  • Phone the Parenting Line on 1800 654 432


Acknowledgements
Women and Newborn Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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